Inmarriage

A leading Conservative rabbi argues for the importance of encouraging inmarriage.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

The prophet Jeremiah lived at a time when the core values and principles he cherished were threatened. The Jewish life his ancestors knew was disintegrating before his eyes. Blinded by bloodshed, all his fellow Jews could see was eternal exile in Babylonia. A natural response would have been to give up in despair. Many did.

Jeremiah himself, however, did something surprisingly bold. Demonstrating his unwillingness to accept the inevitability of a future based on prevailing conditions, he purchased land in his beloved Israel. Most of his neighbors would have considered it foolish, or worse, to acquire land in a war zone. They could not envision a time when Jewish life would, once again, blossom according to God's promise. Indeed, Jeremiah's land would not be toiled by his family during his lifetime.

jewish marriageJeremiah’s action was founded on a vision. He acknowledged what was--yet he refused to accept it as the foundation for building a future. He resolved to change the present by making a passionate commitment to the future. It is imperative that we emulate Jeremiah's model.

The most recent study of the American Jewish Committee revealing a growing acceptance by American Jews of intermarriage should be no surprise. After all, most of us have relatives or close Jewish friends who have married non‑Jews. Previously negative responses in many cases have been modified not by a change in position but by despair in facing the "tidal wave."

Can it be that the 57% of those surveyed who stated that they would approve of rabbinic co‑officiation at intermarriages with Gentile clergy really believe that this will create a meaningful Jewish experience? Do the 70% who want their rabbis to officiate at intermarriages truly believe that such rabbinic involvement is an appropriate Jewish value based upon their commitment to Jewish living? Can it be that the 56% who were either "neutral" or "positive" aboutthe marriage between a Jew and a Gentile really believe that such a marriage is ideal for creating a Jewish family?

What we are witnessing is a natural reaction to the experience of the present. Jewish leaders‑‑indeed all who are committed to a Jewish renaissance‑‑know that intermarriage is not the ideal. Like Jeremiah, we must make a bold commitment, through our actions, to the future we desire.

Although every Jewish institution must play a role in a Jewish renaissance, it is the synagogue that may be best poised to disseminate the message of inmarriage. Although the words are difficult to articulate in the current climate, we must make a commitment to the future by educating all Jews to the importance of marrying within the faith. We must find sensitive and appropriate language to convince Jews that their lives will be enriched when two Jews‑‑by birth or by choice‑‑join to create a home shaped by Jewish values. This message will not be absorbed without a conscious campaign to express it; not once or twice‑‑but until it is learned.

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Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein

Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein is the Executive Vice‑President of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative congregations in North America.