A Sermon on Intermarriage

This past summer, we blogged about numerous articles in which it was evident the Conservative movement has started to shift their approach towards intermarriage within their synagogues and congregations. But after reading an article in this week’s Washington Jewish Week by Conservative rabbi Gil Steinlauf of Adas Israel Congregation, we’re even more confident that this shift towards welcoming and inclusion is here to stay.

Adapted from his Rosh Hashanah sermon, Rabbi Steinlauf believes that we need to move beyond just “tolerating” those of other religious backgrounds in our midst to a “place of real acceptance.” He recognizes the challenge faced by balancing halacha (Jewish law) with the realities of intermarriage, but believes that we can – and should – do what we can to “joyfully welcome all” into our celebrations and community. He writes:

A new paradigm of Jewish life is not a weakening of the bonds that have held us together. It is not a free-for-all with no limits or respect for what we have always been. It is an affirmation of our strength. We have nothing to fear. We proudly stand for a 3,000 year old heritage; a rich universe unto itself of learning, of community, of connection, of wisdom, of culture, of music, of thought, of joy that we are strong enough to share with all human beings. The more we proudly open up to the world and celebrate who we are, the more we lovingly allow others into our celebration, the more we will be strengthened.

His words are quite moving and they demonstrate that there is ample room within our big tent to welcome and embrace all who approach. Preaching fear of intermarriage has been a demonstrable failure, leading to an exodus from Judaism those who didn’t marry a Jew. Rabbi Steinlauf believes each human being is “worthy of being welcomed into the joy, the holiness of am Yisrael, the Jewish people – in any way that they can be.” We couldn’t agree more, and we hope those who heard his sermon – and now those who have read it – come away with the same enthusiasm for promoting a warm and welcoming Jewish community.

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