We have been following with great interest the debate surrounding intermarried rabbis. This past April, the student-run magazine New Voices explored the issue and spoke with Rabbi Ed Stafman, the second intermarried rabbi ordained by the Renewal movement. Rabbi Stafman said that when he meets unaffiliated intermarried Jews and tells them that he too is intermarried, it helps them recognize that the Jewish community can be a place welcoming of their life choices.
Tablet magazine, an online Jewish daily, recently dove into the issue because Rabbi Stafman was installed this month as the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom, a Reform congregation in Bozeman, Montana.
So far, the article says, no one in the congregation has objected to Rabbi Stafman’s background. But that “may well be because Montana’s Jewish community is so isolated.” Stafman acknowledges that his status would be more controversial in other places, but in Bozeman – where “even 60 percent of Chabad-goers are intermarried” – it’s an issue many are willing to look past.
Though the topic of intermarried rabbis is fairly new, we wonder if people with stories like Rabbi Stafman will start to find themselves in more “established” Jewish communities. Hiring an intermarried rabbi is, for most synagogues, “as taboo as passing out pork dumplings on Yom Kippur.” But a few years ago so was hiring an openly gay or lesbian rabbi, or even longer ago hiring a female rabbi.
The Jewish community is evolving in its effort to reach, engage and provide meaning for each segment of the overall Jewish population. Are intermarried rabbis the next step? Or is that one line that shouldn’t be crossed (as was argued recently in a column by Julie Weiner)? What do you think?