Changing Attitudes on Intermarriage

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), which represents Reform rabbis throughout the world, has just wrapped up its annual convention in San Francisco. During the convention, CCAR leadership released the results of a long awaited three-year study of intermarriage. The leadership found that since intermarriage is a “given,” we should “increase outreach and understanding, rather than [treat intermarriage] as a threat to Jewish identity that must be resisted at all costs.”

We are excited that the CCAR has publicly made these statements. JOI associate executive director Paul Golin told the Religion News Service that this is a great step that “confirms what’s been going on for years at the grassroots level.” The CCAR has now acknowledged that “attitudes have changed,” and this will help as we continue in our efforts to reach and engage intermarried families.

JOI executive director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky addressed the committee during deliberations last year, so we weren’t completely surprised by the new language regarding intermarriage. The CCAR is even considering publishing some JOI materials in conjunction with the report. When Kerry met with the committee, he brought to them what we have learned in our ten years of experience in working with intermarried families and children of intermarriage – simply put, outreach works. When we embrace the opportunity to include interfaith families and encourage their participation in religious activities and life-cycle events, there is a greater chance of Jewish engagement.

Trying to prevent intermarriage is a failed tactic, and that’s what the CCAR discovered in its study. The best thing we can do is open our doors and create positive Jewish experience for intermarried families.

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