I recently returned from this year’s CAJE (Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education) conference held at Duke University, where I generally present each year. During one of my sessions this year, I asked the question I often ask: “How many of you are touched by interfaith marriage in your immediate family?” Of the people in attendance at this standing-room only session, focused on “the children of intermarriage in the classroom,” nearly every hand shot up.
This is a self-selecting group, and perhaps their personal interest motivated their choice of which session to attend. But the session was focused more on their role as professional Jewish educators. These are people who are committed to Jewish education, actively practicing it, and representing a wide range of the Jewish community—demographically, ideologically and geographically.
Intermarriage is not reserved for people on the periphery of the Jewish community. Nor should it be a reason for pushing people out—especially Jewish communal professionals who are committed to the Jewish present and the Jewish future. I have long been concerned with the reaction of the Jewish community to Jewish communal professionals and volunteer leaders who are intermarried or whose children are intermarried. I want to make sure that none of these individuals are limited in their opportunity to grow as communal leaders.