More than 6,000 people have read or viewed " Call & Responsa 2: Should a Rabbi Perform an Intermarriage?" More than 200 have responded to the commentary of via emails, votes in an online poll or comments on our website. Some comments cite Jewish law and tradition. Others relate personal stories. Many comments can be found at the bottom of the original articles in the Talkback section. Read a sampling of comments below.
There can be no question that when our brothers and sisters choose to marry someone who is not Jewish, they are still members of the family who need all the love and support we can give. On the other hand, we cannot ignore all our “other” brothers and sisters who are struggling to find Jewish partners and who make personal sacrifices to do so. What if rabbinic participation at interfaith marriages pulls the rug out from under those who are trying to stay within the tribe which then leads them to give up and start dating non-Jews? If this is the case, then interfaith officiation might be doing more harm than good!
Another way of framing this discussion is to ask what kinds of rabbis do we want and/or need; those who model openness and flexibility or those who model commitment and perseverance? To the extent that rabbis who officiate at interfaith marriages are perceived as merely “giving in to the inevitable,” they are not trailblazers in a brave new world, but instead “sell outs” who don’t have the backbone to stand up for what is right. And to the extent that rabbis who ignore interfaith couples are perceived as cowards, they are unqualified to lead the Jewish people through the challenges of living in a free society. In short, we need rabbinic leadership that simultaneously shows compassion, but also stands strong. Is such a combination possible?
To be sure, there are no simple nor “one size fits all” answers, but here is a suggestion. I think that we need different people to serve in different roles. In each community (be it a synagogue, town or region) there should be at least one person (rabbi, cantor, etc.) who can serve the needs of those wish to marry outside of the tribe. However, the bulk of the community rabbis and leaders should focus their attention on encouraging marriage within the tribe. In this way, interfaith couples are not forsaken, but those who are still trying to marry a Jew are strongly supported and encouraged. Back to top
Yes, yes, yes. If you do not want to do it in the sanctuary, then at least in a hotel. But do it. This should not even merit discussion. Back to top
I agree with Rabbi Buchdahl based on personal experience. I think she frames it well when she says that each couple be judged separately on their commitment – and, I guess, the rabbi’s "gut feeling" about their willingness to have a Jewish home and raise Jewish children – EVEN if the non-Jewish partner is not ready to convert YET. That is precisely what happened in my life.
In 1964 I met a young man – not Jewish. Born into a Catholic family – but he was not a "believer," and in fact disliked Catholicism – its rites and beliefs.
We became engaged in January 1965. I was a student nurse at that time at Lenox Hill Hospital. We had discussions about Judaism and he knew it was important to me. That I "wanted more" than the minimal "gastronomic" Judaism which was my home environment.
The Jewish chaplain at the hospital, Rabbi Ronald Sobel, of Temple Emanuel on Fifth Avenue, said he would not officiate at our wedding…but that perhaps the senior rabbi, Rabbi Nathan Perelman, might. I was not a member of that (or ANY!) congregation – my family had never been "joiners" ("Too Jewish!!") – but *I* used to go to Saturday morning services to hear Rabbi Perelman’s sermons. They were wonderful.
We made an appointment to see Rabbi Perelman. I told him "my story" – that I wanted "more." that my parents were "cardiac" Jews ("in the heart"!) and "gastronomic" Jews (in the stomach!!). He asked my fiancé about his background and beliefs. How did he feel about raising any children as Jews? “I have no problem with that,” he said. Rabbi Perelman agreed to officiate at our wedding in June of that year (1966).
It was a small wedding – with a plastic flowered chuppah and sparklers on the wedding cake! I was 20. I had never been to a wedding before (no less a Jewish wedding).
It was a wonderful ceremony – and it meant SO much to us that he BELIEVED in us enough to officiate. Yes, it was "Jewish-style" – no Shevah Brachot – but I didn’t know that. To me and my husband – it was a Jewish wedding.
We paid him all of $50! That was his fee.
Years passed…after 32 years, my husband converted to Judaism.
We have three adult children – and one of them is a cantor (HUC-JIR SSM graduate).
That’s our story. That is why I think that ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS rabbis should perform intermarriages. The rabbi needs to be the judge of whether or not the couple is serious about wanting to create a Jewish home and raise Jewish children – even if the non-Jewish partner has not converted.
My husband and I have always remembered our meeting with Rabbi Perelman and how grateful we have continued to be that he believed in us. Back to top
I think a rabbi should perform an intermarriage under certain circumstances, but should meet with and counsel both parties as to their commitment to having a Jewish home, and raising their children, if any, Jewish (but with a tolerant attitude toward the non-Jewish partner’s family of origin). Back to top
While this discussion is happening, I think readers might want to know that for several years InterfaithFamily has offered a free Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service, www.interfaithfamily.com/findarabbi. Our referral list has grown to 750 rabbis, and we respond to over 2,000 requests for referrals a year. Clearly there is a demand for officiation for interfaith couples, and fortunately growing numbers of rabbis are deciding to officiate. Back to top