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Reform Movement Changes Intermarriage Strategy

Proposes special blessings instead of discouragement

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This was in the morning round-up, but it seems like big enough news to highlight: The Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represents thousands of Reform Jewish clergy, two years ago convened a task force to study the question of intermarriage, and that group has now proposed moving away from discouraging Jews from marrying non-Jews and toward encouraging those Jews who do marry non-Jews to maintain Jewish homes.

The panel did not advocate changing Reform Judaism’s current rules, which leave the question of whether or not to officiate at interfaith weddings up to individual rabbis. (Conservative and Orthodox Judaism bar their rabbis from doing this; Reconstructionists also delegate that decision to each rabbi.) Rather, the panel suggests that the movement establish special blessings to codify and recognize these unions.

What do you guys think?

U.S. Reform Rabbis Suggest Welcoming Interfaith Couples [AP/Haaretz]

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Jeremiah says:

It’s about time. How many Jews have been “lost” because they were discouraged from marrying the person they loved, not to mention their children? Every non-Jew is a potential Jew, and non-Jewish spouses who don’t convert are often more involved in synagogue and Jewish life than their Jewish partners. They should have been welcomed long ago.

Susan Zuckerman says:

The Reform movement has “saichel”.
Conservative Judaism: ARE YOU LISTENING?

Unphased says:

Since Reform “Judaism” has also questioned circumcision and Zionism at different points in its history and is essentially founded upon the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform, which dismisses “such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity and dress” as anachronisms that only obstruct spirituality in the modern age…..[and that Reform Jews must only be accepting of laws that they feel] “elevate and sanctify our lives” and must reject those customs and laws that are “not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization.”…..I’m not sure Reform Judaism’s liberality of the day should even be considered Judaism at all.
Religion was never designed to be sensitive and welcoming to all without restrictions…if so it would be nothing more than a chess club where a scarf talis is the team uniform.

Pink says:

Is this kiruv? If the point is to bring the non-Jewish spouse into Judaism and to reinforce the Jewish spouse’s Judaism, then it must be into Torah Judaism. All the mitzvos, not picking and choosing.

savtaro says:

This is all just too pathetic! What remnants of Judaism will remain? No kippot. No kashrut. No kinship! The Reform will consistently prostitute themselves to stay in business. It’s time for them to admit that they are bankrupt and close the shop.

Not much news here at all–merely issuing a press release on what rabbis already do. The notion that we *wouldn’t* welcome intermarried couples and encourage them to make Jewish choices is laughable. That’s it’s news that Reform rabbis are encouraging Jewish choices is rather depressing, when you think about it. As we see too often, our communal strategies are way out of date. This should have been a shared communal strategy going back at least fifty years. We’d see far fewer angry, disgruntled or disengaged Jews had we been more open sooner.

Donny says:

Perhaps they’re half right. Why not perform and “bless” intermarriages where the (female) bride is Jewish – and encourage the couple to raise the (halachically) Jewish offspring Jewishly. Where a Jewish male is about to marry a non-Jewish female, remind him that if his son’s eventually decide to convert, they will need to be circumcised — whereas if his fiancee’ converts only a mikveh is required, and his son’s will be spared the need for a circumcision in later life, if they decide to convert. This appeal to rational decision-making — and keeping options open at the least cost — should appeal to “rationalist” Jews.

Donny–most Jewish dads do circumcise their sons. And their non-Jewish spouses don’t generally practice any other religion. The more we welcome them, the better and stronger we’ll actually be. And if we are eating less brisket and kugel, that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.

Steve says:

Unphased clearly hasn’t been following Reform Judaism- it is a long way from 1885!

Unphased knows no time limitations. Kinda like a super hero.

One can feel the assimilationist rejoice at the expense of tradition rabbinic Judaism. This issue is not that we have come to this point in the discussion, the issue is do we recognize what has been lost. Perhaps an understanding of the directive “maintain Jewish homes” is required.

This is likely a very good thing for our future, but I am sad for our loss.

As a Jewish woman in an interfaith marriage, I think it’s about damn time. I’ve become more religious since I met my husband and it’s because of his encouragement that I’ve deepened my own faith and practice and eventually attended the Kohenet spiritual leadership program.

I understand it’s easier for woman here. Donny is right, the reality of potential conversion issues need to be clearly stated to interfaith couples where the man is the Jew. You do need to discuss the “what ifs” of child rearing.

As a rabbi ordained by the Reform movement, I am thrilled that the movement is now focusing on blessing interfaith relationships. I have been surprised at times, including recently, to see that the Reform Movement’s CCAR tends to title their discussions as the “Challenges of Interfaith Marriage.” It is time to stop thinking of intermarriage as only a challenge – it is also a reality and an opportunity. At http://www.OurJewishCommunity.org, we have created a contemporary Jewish experience that welcomes interfaith families as part of our community.

gabriel ben avraham says:

The left hand welcomes and the right hand tries to stab it with a knife. Aren’t we a holy people now! I’m amazed that the orthos do everything they can to discredit the philosophy and practice of those Jews who don’t agree with them, even to the point of questioning their “Judaism”. Did they forget that it’s a blood line first, and then a practice, which has EVOLVED for centuries. Why stop jewish practice in the 13th or 14th century, pretending all the while we’ve been doing the same rituals since the time of Moses. Nice try, but completely false. I’ve seen jewish communities and families energized in their faith buy extending a welcome to non-jews. And many become model Jews.

Such expected comments – some outraged, putting Reform Judaism in quotations to insult its follows & insinuate that it’s not a real form of Judaism; others thrilled to see the religion they love embracing the values they already hold dear.

I, for one, am happy to fall into the former of those two groups. I don’t give a damn what the Orthodox say – you may put my religion in quotations, but I don’t care for yours a bit, either. We are not the same – the differences between you & us is as wide as the difference between Evangelicals & Unitarians. We would be happy to accept you & let you be, yet you make a career out of telling us that we are wrong, a shanda, an embarrassment. Waste your time on something else – we are happy, we are fulfilled, we love our faith & we are Jews. Nothing you say to us will make that stop being the case.

Rachel says:

I’d just like to say that there are many half-Jewish celebrities out there who happily are claimed as members of the tribe, whether they say it or it is decided for them. Either way, no one seems to have a problem with them.

KRG: Your comment of bloodline then practice… is that in the Torah? or does the Shema say … if you follow all of these commandments? Please don’t make things up.

Really says:

Speaking as a secular Jew, who moved here from the former Soviet Union. If the mom is Jewish, the kids are Jewish, end of convo. Historically, the mother has been the center of the Jewish home, the person to pass along the values of the community. That’s why I think the 2 years conversion process makes sense, it gives time to instill the weight of history upon the convertee. I’ve seen too many kids who’s dad was jewish say they were jewish and then years down the line lose that connection, that experience really reinforced jewish mon, jewish kid definition.

If its so important that the kids be raised jewish, why won’t the non-jewish partner convert?

Scott Aaron says:

Aside from the issue at hand, might I suggest that before anyone condemns Reform Judaism outright, as I am reading here from some posts, that they actually take time to understand what Reform Judaism actually is in both thought and practice? This stuff I’m reading that assumes negatively what Reform Jews don’t do or believe really misses the boat in understanding them. To lump all Reform Jews in to a group and paint them with the same black brush makes about as much sense as lumping all Orthodox Jews together and putting them under the same black hat.

questioner says:

@Really

Some non-Jewish partners do not convert because they do not believe in G-d or have other deeply held beliefs at odds with Judaic creed. They do not want to make a sham of the conversion process.

However, many of these non-Jews are simultaneously happy to live in a Jewish home, support Jewish practice and minhag, educate their children as Jews, etc.

In fact, they remind me a lot of many Jews who do not necessarily believe in HaShem. This simultaneously saddens yet fascinates me.

Really says:

@questioner
How many kids from the unions where daddy is Jewish, are practicing jews in their 30s? Or even consider themselves jewish? Isn’t the intro always, “my dad is jewish”… that tells you a lot.
My parents always said that you should marry someone who is jewish, because if you don’t, one day that spouse is going to turn around and throw that in your face.

anti-intermarriage says:

Intermarriage creates interfaith individuals not Jewish individuals. A Jeiwsh home and Jewish children are created by two Jewish parents. A non-Jew can’t raise Jewish children or keep a Jewish home. It’s impossible. Jews are free to marry non-Jews but don’t expect to have a Jewish wedding or a Jewish family.

“Rabbi” Laura Baum is just another exampe of an “anything goes” approach at the Reform movement. Disrespecting the Torah and Halacha law is what they do best. Why even call yourself a Rabbi? Why even call yourslef a Jew? This individual applauds intermarriage which is destroying the Jewish community. She should become a Unitarian minister and be done with it.

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Reform Movement Changes Intermarriage Strategy

Proposes special blessings instead of discouragement

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