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Not with pressure, but with love

I would have never believed it to be possible, but Shmuel Rosner and I may actually agree about some very important issues concerning interfaith marriage. My surprise comes after reading the blog entry he penned following the recent conference of the Jewish Funders Network. Rosner has, in the past, been quite outspoken in espousing some very traditional views that warn his readers of the dangers of reaching out to the intermarried, while supporting the claims of many of JOI’s critics. But here he takes an evenhanded approach to the issue and acknowledges that most North American Jews are now in agreement about the value of accepting interfaith marriage. There is nothing to fight against. Now the only option is to open our hearts and homes—and especially the gates of the Jewish community and its institutions. This is what JOI has been saying during its 20 years—yes we are celebrating our 20th year in 2007.

Rosner quotes our friend and supporter from Boston, Michael Rukin, who spoke passionately at the conference, saying “We can’t fight the tide of history.” Rukin already had wowed the folks who attended the 2006 JOI National Leadership Conference in Atlanta with similar sentiments. Scott Shay also debated Rosen, who claims that Shay and Rukin are in agreement on the intermarriage issue, but I have to demur. In Shay’s recent book on the future of the North American Jewish community, he calls to task any rabbi who would officiate at any interfaith wedding (Shay actually wrote that any rabbi who officiates should be forbidden an aliyah in any synagogue in the world) and argues that the Reform movement should rescind its decision about patrilineal descent.

The best part of the article and perhaps the piece that sums it up comes at the end, when Rosner concedes that my colleague Rabbi Eric Yoffie is correct. “In any case, if non-Jews are welcomed and embraced by the Jewish community, they may ultimately join the tribe. Not with pressure, but with love.” May this be a season of liberation for us all—so that we may all know freedom from enslavement, particularly those ideas of the past that threaten to prevent us from moving into the future and its promise of redemption.



2 Comments

  1. I followed the links to the 2 items written by Rosner, and I have to say, I must be missing something here. I see nothing that indicates he (or anyone else) believes there are dangers in reaching out to intermarrieds. Rather I see him referencing data on the consequences of intermarriage. This is a very different thing. In fact, one could use the data on the consequences of intermarriage as the reasons why there SHOULD be more outreach.

    I offer an observation as someone who is very supportive of outreach and whose recent and limited exposure to it is via this website that I have been reading on and off for the last couple of months: Some at JOI almost seem to be looking for things to fight about with the Jewish community ‘establishment’ and I can’t help but wonder why this might be the case. Is it a battle for funding?

    I’d like to think that most rational people would be supportive of your efforts. What Jewish person in America does not have family members or Jewish friends who marry a non-Jew? What Jewish person would not want to see the intermarried family embrace Judaism. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

    So am I just the most naive person in the world? Or am I just missing something here?

    Comment by Jeff — March 30, 2007 @ 8:16 pm

  2. Thank you for writing. We are not looking for fights in the community, believe me. If you follow Rosner’s column daily, then you can see the pattern as we do. And if there is no pattern, and he is indeed supportive of our work, then I welcome him.

    Comment by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky — April 1, 2007 @ 12:23 am

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