It might be time for JOI to open an office in Europe.
According to the JTA, a survey conducted by Gallup Europe and released by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s International Center for Community Development (ICCD) found that “European Jewish leaders believe that conversion, intermarriage and communal membership should be dealt with more liberally.” The article states:
In a survey of 251 Jewish leaders in Europe conducted last fall, 85 percent of respondents felt it was “not a good idea to strongly oppose intermarriage and bar intermarried Jews and their spouses from communal membership.” Most European Jewish communities now allow only those with a Jewish mother or an Orthodox conversion to be counted.
The survey also found that only a quarter of those questioned believe the Jewish community should be limited to either those born to a Jewish mother or having undergone an Orthodox conversion. Even among the Orthodox and Modern Orthodox, 43 percent believe conversions performed under any denomination are valid, and “one Jewish parent was enough to justify membership to communal organizations.”
The Jerusalem Post also reported on the story, noting that some question the validity of these findings. A spokesman for the Rabbinical Center of Europe said, “European Jews consider Rabbis to be the only leaders of the communities, and no rabbi would agree with these findings.”
Despite these challenges to the survey methodology, the findings make sense. Intermarriage is on the rise in Europe and a high percentage of Jewish leaders there recognize that prohibitions have not worked, and now they need to lower barriers and welcome all Jewish families regardless of background. They understand that being more open and inclusive is the best way to engage more Jewish households, including intermarried and unaffiliated members of the community.