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Did Moses Intermarry? Who Says He Did—and Why Do They Want To Know?

Some Reform leaders see Moses as a model to ease modern tensions. But such a reading of the Torah is strained—and risky.

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Charlton Heston and Yvonne De Carlo in The Ten Commandments. (Photofest)
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Historically, Jews have regarded the prohibition of intermarriage as a negative mitzvah, based on the Torah’s command not to intermarry with the Canaanite nations and extended by the rabbis to include all intermarriage. Are Reform leaders now really reluctant even to re-frame that mitzvah in the positive and to say that it is a mitzvah for a Jew to marry a Jew? Why not maintain Rabbi Schindler’s stance that would state: We encourage Jews to marry other Jews, even as we embrace interfaith families committed to raising Jewish children?

We have no illusions. We know that more rabbis who unequivocally state that in-marriage is the ideal will not dramatically lower the intermarriage rate. That lofty goal can be achieved only through additional investment in policies and programs that strengthen Jewish life generally and create stronger social networks among young Jews—overnight camps, Israel travel, campus workers, day schools, and more. That said, rabbis who raise intermarriage to a status where it’s as valid a Jewish choice as in-marriage, or an ideal reflected in the lives of our greatest prophets, undermine Jewish law, Jewish history, and contemporary demographics. For, as the research unequivocally shows, in-marrying spouses observe more, affiliate more, identify with Israel more, and raise their children as Jewish significantly more than the intermarried. We believe that we can welcome the intermarried without losing the right to teach our children the actual advantage of in-marrying in order to live a fuller Jewish life.

Following the publication of Pew’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” we can well imagine that some Jewish parents are sitting down with their children to assure that their kids understand that when the time comes, they are to marry within the faith. Do we really want these children to answer: “But our rabbi teaches that intermarriage is a personal choice just as good as marrying a Jew. After all, Moses married a non-Jew and he became the leader of our people”?

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Did Moses Intermarry? Who Says He Did—and Why Do They Want To Know?

Some Reform leaders see Moses as a model to ease modern tensions. But such a reading of the Torah is strained—and risky.

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