Intermarriage: Implications for Israel

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Who said that Israel is not a complicated modern state—one that replicates the complexity of the contemporary Jewish world. Israeli Supreme CourtOn the heels of the proposal by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel to reject conversions of all kinds from abroad, the Israeli Supreme Court affirmed the right of inheritances for those whose intermarriages have taken place abroad, as reported in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

Not only is this evidence of the vibrancy of the democracy in place in Israel and the role that the Supreme Court plays in issues relevant to personal status and the growing phenomenon of intermarriage even in the state of Israel, but it also shows that the Chief Rabbinate does not have a stranglehold on the government even when it appears to be so.


  1. Related to the topic of Intermarriage & Conservative Judaism-

    I have been a strong advocate of outreach at my conservative synagogue (and, as an aside, very much appreciate the JOI website, thank you!). But I can’t help but fear that as long as conservative rabbis/synagogues do not perform interfaith weddings, outreach efforts will not make a significant dent in the declining membership issues being faced by conservative synagogues. Put yourself in the shoes of young couple: If you were to choose to affiliate, would you go to the place that, in effect, disapproved of your marriage, notwithstanding all of the wonderful warm outreach messages to the contrary. And what does ‘no interfaith marriages’ really imply about the offspring, again, despite the warm outreach messages to the contrary. Afterall, actions speak louder…

    What has your experience been with conservative congregations and how they wrestle with this issue?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts, and keep up the good work!


    Comment by Jeff — January 15, 2007 @ 8:13 pm

  2. Jeff,
    Thanks for your kind words about our work. We are doing a great deal with individual Conservative congregations and there are many rabbis who are working with us. I do not believe that the issue is primarily tied to officiation. I think it is really more about attitude. Consider the Reform movement where a large majority of its rabbis do not officiate at interfaith weddings and yet the movement is still very open and responsive to the needs of interfaith families. At this point, approximately 1/3 of the Reform movement is made up of interfaith families.

    Comment by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky — January 15, 2007 @ 10:04 pm

  3. I was not aware that so few Reform rabbis officiated at interfaith weddings. I guess that’s ‘good’ news for Conservative congregations relative to our stance on officiating not making it more difficult for us to attract interfaith congregants. But overall, unwillingness to officiate seems to me to be very much at odds with outreach.

    I am curious about your thoughts on this. Do you see it as being a bit of a mixed message? Is anything taking place to reconcile it? Do you see this ever changing?


    Comment by Jeff — January 16, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

  4. It is constantly under discussion. As a matter of fact, it will be discussed at the upcoming annual conference of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

    I dont see it as a mixed message necessarily. I think that we have to be supportive of rabbis who are willing to be embracing and who have come very far forward rather than criticizing them for what we may perceive as not coming far enough. All of are on a journey–rabbis included.

    Interfaith marriage is a difficult issue for rabbis to get their arms around. And they are getting little guidance in its complexities–in the seminaries or out of it. It is one of the things that JOI is attempting to do in its work.

    Comment by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky — January 16, 2007 @ 8:24 pm

  5. I’m glad to hear that there is an ongoing dialogue on officiating. I agree that there are many shades of gray that should all be supported. And I certainly don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but as far as mixed messages are concerned…..”We welcome you, we want you to be comfortable here, look at all of our programs to educate and make you feel more comfortable, oh, did I mention that you have to go somewhere else for your wedding”….if that’s not a mixed message, I don’t know what is!

    I know, not an easy issue…

    Comment by Jeff — January 17, 2007 @ 6:52 pm

  6. Within the context of Reform ideology, recognizing that JOI works with the entire spectrum of the JEwish community, it is important to realize that just as the rabbi is being asked to respect the personal autonomy and choice of the couple, we have to find a way for the couple to respect the personal autonomy of the rabbi. Lets begin with creating a supportive environment.

    Comment by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky — January 17, 2007 @ 9:39 pm

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