In his opinion piece Cautious About Outreach Impact in the (New York) Jewish Week, Samuel Klagsbrun wonders “why is it when I read the news emanating from Boston…that 60 percent of the children of intermarried couples there were being raised Jewish, I did not feel a sense of joy or relief?” Perhaps the answer is because the organization he represents, the American Jewish Committee, has invested countless hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past decade promoting policies to address the high rates of intermarriage that oppose the actual work of outreach to interfaith families. Now that more people are starting to believe in outreach, maybe the AJC is defensive about how they’ve spent their own donors’ dollars.
Perhaps it is also because the main alternative to outreach the AJC offers—to solve what he describes as “the disaster we face”—is the one strategy we know with absolute certainty does not work: communal admonition against intermarriage. We know it doesn’t work because it was the exact strategy used by the Jewish community throughout the entire rise of intermarriage during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s.
The most unacceptable part of his op-ed, however, is the new outreach smear: what kind of Jews are these? Yes, they say they’re Jewish, but can these intermarried households do more than “singing a few words in Hebrew.” This is the true recipe for disaster in the Jewish community: Jews discrediting other Jews. You can always find some other person to claim they are a “better” Jew than you—more observant, made aliyah, however they define better. How is that helpful? We find it sad that elements within the AJC are so unwilling to admit they were wrong about interfaith families being able to raise Jewish children that they would rather discredit entire swaths of our community, including countless children and grandchildren of their own AJC membership!
The taboo against intermarriage has long since faded among non-Orthodox Jewry. We look forward to the new taboo—against the writing off of 47% of married Jewish households by supposed communal “leaders.”