“Moment asks a group of prominent rabbis, community leaders and scholars to weigh in on the debate. Although there are a wide range of strongly held views in this symposium, almost everyone we spoke with agreed on two points: Intermarriage is here to stay, and it is imperative to reach out to and integrate interfaith families into the Jewish community. Ultimately, the debate over intermarriage determines who American Jews are and will be in the 21st century and beyond.”
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Increasingly, many American Jews choose love over tribal loyalty. Love is a good thing. Love is cherished and beautiful and complicated. So is love good for the Jews? Yes. Is intermarriage therefore good for the Jews who choose it? Yes. Is it good for Judaism, and is it good for the continuity of the Jewish narrative? That’s a very different question.
Intermarriage is a very serious challenge to the continuity of Judaism as we know it, but it is not a deal-breaker, nor is it the end of the line. It is a serious invitation to be very thoughtful about what it means to be evolving as a people and an invitation to be sensitive to the realities on the ground, to examine our priorities and the complexities of continuity and discontinuity.
As a Conservative rabbi at an independent shul, I have decided to perform intermarriages, but I do not propose or support a blanket yes to all intermarriages but rather to ones between Jews and people from another heritage who are involved, engaged and deeply invested in the Jewish community. That is a nuanced but important distinction. The current position of the Conservative movement is that there is not much room for this kind of nuance. That feels inappropriate to me.
This is a unique moment. For the past century or so, there’s been a gradual decline in Jewish literacy and engagement with what Judaism has to offer. This has created stress and anxieties about the continuity of Judaism. These are legitimate and valid concerns. I have confidence that many of us still possess a deep love for what Judaism and Jewish values have to offer. I want people to choose Judaism from a place of love and trust, rather than from anxiety and fear that this is the end of the line. We should embrace the complex evolution of our current Jewish reality. If we don’t do this, the Conservative Jewish movement might just collapse.