We were excited to read some comments from Rabbi Ben Kramer of Beth Israel Synagogue in Munster, Indiana. In an article about his installation at Beth Israel, he talked about what it’s like to be a rabbi in a small town where there is not a large Jewish infrastructure. He said it provides an opportunity “confront our Jewishness more frequently than Jews who live in heavily Jewish cities.”
As a former rabbinic intern at JOI while pursuing his studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, we were proud to see he has taken what he learned here and is now applying it to his congregation. He said:
“The idea that rejecting intermarried couples would lead to the conversion of the non-Jewish spouse, or even to a decline in the rate of intermarriage, has proven to be wrong,” Kramer says. “While I believe we must continue to uphold the ideal of in-marriage, to do so does not necessitate alienating intermarried couples and intermarried families who are looking to raise their children in a Jewish home.”
One of Kramer’s many goals is helping each person to explore his or her Jewishness.
“My goal is building a community within our congregation by providing a warm and comfortable place for all Jews and to help them find an entryway into our tradition that is meaningful to them and will ignite in them a passion for deeper engagement with Judaism and with our community.”
Welcoming intermarried families, lowering barriers to participation, increasing access points – Rabbi Kramer indeed “gets it.” This is important because as a conservative rabbi, he is part of a movement that has struggled in the last few years to attract and retain members. But his philosophy is designed around the fact that the Jewish community is evolving, and he knows it will take an innovative and progressive approach to reach all those on the periphery.