A Response to Recent Articles on Intermarriage

There have been numerous pieces about intermarriage in the press lately. I am not really sure why they have suddenly emerged. Perhaps it is the result of several books that have been recently published. But I have decided to follow the advice of one of my teachers in rabbinical school, Alvin Reines z”l (of blessed memory). And while I usually disagreed with much of his religious philosophy, I often appreciated his practical advice. He often told us that sometimes silence is the best response, especially to public positions taken that are patently absurd. Rather, he suggested, let people determine on their own how absurd are the positions. You, he would argue, do not need to point it out. So here are some reasons why I have chosen not to respond, in particular, to those articles that are being written.

1. Unlike in previous articles, neither Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI) nor I were named explicitly or implicitly. Our board made a decision some years ago not to respond to such pieces unless we were specifically named since it does no one any good to engage in what I call “Jew wars.”

2. During this time of year, I am particularly mindful of the challenge of being respectful to one another, even in the context of a philosophical debate.

3. I refuse to allow someone else to set the agenda for our work. Rather than responding, I would prefer to follow the advice of my colleague Paul Steinberg z”l who would often say “let your deeds sing your praises.” After 25 years of work, JOI has a proven track record. It can stand on its own as a rebuttal to any claim our critics make.

4. The positions that are being taken are old arguments. We have publicly responded to them on numerous occasions. Since there are no new arguments being made in these articles, it is silly to repeat those arguments.

5. I refuse to allow the work we are doing with regard to intermarriage to be classified in terms like “war” or “battle.” Any response would be an affirmation of such terms.

6. To divide the Jewish community along the lines of intermarriage is archaic. The great divide is along the lines of engagement.

7. To intermarry is a choice people are entitled to make. The goal of the Jewish community must be to provide meaning to these couples, and not to judge the decisions they have made.

8. I fear that these articles allow some people to respond and use such reactions as cover for the positions they take, which are commonly known. Our positions are known and we welcome people who want to work along with us.

It is time to move the conversation away from who people marry to how they raise their children. We welcome all those who want to work with us—and join us in the opportunity to shape an optimistic Jewish future.

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