We applaud and encourage the inclination toward easier conversions reported in Rabbis Easing Rules on Conversion in the March 11 Miami Herald. JOI has often called for streamlining or standardizing the conversion process. However, addressing conversion is not the same as addressing intermarriage. Many of those quoted in this article seem to be operating under the assumption that intermarriage is a problem that should be cured by conversion. But whose problem is this really addressing?
The Jewish community cannot and should not expect anyone to make the vast leap from another faith to Judaism simply because some perceive it as better for Judaism. We should promote the idea that our faith is something someone comes to out of desire, conviction, and belief, and not because there is an arbitrary organizational need for numbers. Therefore we must speak to the needs and the desires of all those we want to welcome into our fold. And those needs may not be conversion. At the very least those needs may not be conversion at first.
Insisting on conversion as the only means of entering the Jewish community is counterproductive when it comes to reaching out to intermarried families. It sends the wrong message. It says we want you with us, but we won’t even meet you part of the way. How much more fruitful would our efforts be if instead of being so strident and single minded we reached out our hands to these millions and say… we respect you and we want you, let’s sit down and discuss what you need; let’s show you what we can give you. That’s not only a first step; it’s the most necessary step.