Inmarriage

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

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We know that experiential programs for teenagers and young adults create stronger bonds of Jewish living. Thus, the Conservative Movement has made a commitment to invigorate its already successful programs. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's new campaign to aggressively reach out to unaffiliated Conservative Jewish youth will cost more than $100,000 a year. Our initiative to strengthen Jewish identity through an expanded KOACH [the College Department of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which sponsors study groups, Israel trips, social events and lectures] and yeshiva program for those in college and beyond have also required new allocations of funds that total, minimally, an additional $150,000 a year.

Words are not sufficient. Our commitment to the future, like Jeremiah’s, requires action. We must find the means to reach out to Jews who are not connected to the community and bring them in. With all the talk about keruv outreach], if we are serious about outreach, we must find the resources to combat anonymity and strengthen Jewish ties. We must restructure synagogue and other communal agendas to make it a priority for each involved Jew to link with others who are less involved and welcome them into the wider Jewish community.

People influence people. Those who really care about inmarriage must resolve to articulate this value loudly and clearly. Whether the message is immediately accepted or not, it has import in the creation of the communal attitude toward intermarriage. Those who reject our message before marriage may be open to hear it later. And those who will not accept this message may nevertheless permit their spouse to raise Jewish children. Passionately reaffirming the boundaries of Jewish identity does not imply the rejection of the intermarried as a person; but neither does acceptance of the intermarried require us to abandon our Jewish values.

The Jewish community is in crisis. We must either accept the data and change our own value system, thereby signaling our surrender, or we must make a renewed effort to strengthen Jewish identity. Now is the time to make our commitment to the future.

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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.