Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Two Conservative Rabbis On Intermarriage Ceremonies

Recent Musing about Intermarriage in the Conservative Movement:

The question of performing intermarriage ceremonies is settled in the Orthodox (NO) and the Reform (YES) movements. The Conservative Movement (NO, but please join us anyways) is in the middle.... is there a time in the future when our answer will change?

Those rabbis considering intermarriage ceremonies are outside of the bounds of the Rabbinical Assembly, and are removed from the movement for doing so. Yet the argument is not really about demographics, or moral imperatives in light of societal change.  The argument in the Conservative movement is about commitment to Judaism.  What is the path forward to keep and get as many Jews as possible to live and pass on a a committed and measurable Jewish life of action?

Lately, the traditional rejection of intermarriage ceremonies has become a topic of renewed introspection and debate among Conservative Rabbis. Here are two voices, recently published.

Rabbi Jeremy Kalmonofsky:

As a heterodox but halachic Jew, I hasten to add that traditional norms are not necessarily the best ones. I celebrate my movement’s radical transformations on gender equality and sexuality — not because they widened the sphere of freedom and privacy for women and gay men and lesbians to pursue their happiness, but because they helped people fulfill the covenant better, enabling more Jews to do more mitzvot and build better families.
Celebrating interfaith weddings cannot clear that bar. It would instead diminish a sacred covenantal tradition, and risk making liberal Judaism into a jumble of traditional gestures that might please individuals but demand nothing from them.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/216123/why-i-will-not-simply-accept-intermarriage/#ixzz3U0QZ4mpS

Rabbi Adina Lewittes:

I could have easily refused their request. But it felt misguided to turn them away. I was their rabbi before they married and would be afterward. Who was I supposed to be for the moment they came together? Couldn’t I stand at their wedding, bless their love, and convey the Jewish community’s desire for their continued involvement, while maintaining my integrity and that of Jewish tradition?
I believed I could, but that belief was hard-won.
I wouldn’t perform a Jewish ceremony for them with the traditional rituals of a ketubah, the Mosaic ring formula, and the seven wedding blessings. To me, those are historic, holy elements reserved for two Jews. But our treasure of Jewish texts has words to invoke without coopting tradition...

I realized, too, that if I set aside millennia of precedent to marry this couple because I was standing by a committed Jew who loved a non-Jew, she should affirm her ongoing Jewish devotion. I knew I would be taking a tremendous risk with both my reputation and my beliefs by marrying Beth and Joe, and I wanted to make as explicit as possible the reasons I was willing to do so. I asked Beth to increase her visibility and activity within our community to affirm her Jewish loyalties; she did. She became the chair of an important committee, a clear public role, and was careful to maintain her presence at events and services.


Rabbi Robert L Tobin:

The studies are clear:  Those intermarried couples who choose to raise their children in Conservative synagogues have children who affiliate and behave Jewishly in the same numbers as those non-intermarried couples in the same synagogues.  To the left of us, where the emphasis on a lived Judaism is different, the future affiliation numbers plummet.  Of all movements, it is our movement that probably stands to gain the most from, and can have the best impact on, intermarried families.

Are the times 'a changin'?  Who knows?

For me, I am a rabbi of the movement.  I am not allowed to due an intermarriage at this time, so I don't.  I am 100% welcoming of any married couple in my shul, no matter what their backgrounds look like.  I "mazal tov" all engagements, and celebrate all births. I am committed to matrilineal descent.

Should the movement change.... I would be very interested to hear and see what that would look like... after all, I am a rabbi of the movement.

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