Intermarriage And The Ghetto Mentality

Intermarriage And The Ghetto Mentality March 29, 2013

Ever the hot topic in the “Shry Gevalt” quarters of the Jewish community, intermarriage still remains a bogeyman for many otherwise liberal rabbis. Even open-minded Reform rabbis who have no problem welcoming gay couples often draw the line at those who dare to venture beyond a Jewish ghetto mentality.

I’m all for Jews marrying Jews. I’m also all for Jews marrying whoever the hell they want. I love performing ceremonies for them and my single condition is that they are committed to each other and that they love and respect one another.

By way of I came across two pieces concerning Reform rabbis and intermarriage. The first is from the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle. It’s about Rabbi Mark Levin who in his 37 years as a Reform rabbi has never sullied his hands with the impurity of performing the magical rites of an intermarriage.  He has now had a change of heart:

“I have been absolutely consistent with this decision over the years, even with some deeply meaningful circumstances,” he said in a recent interview.

“There have been plenty of people I have wanted to officiate for and I couldn’t,” he continued.

He wanted ever so much to help those people out. But he couldn’t. He just … couldn’t. Except now he can. He explained his new policy in the congregation’s February newsletter:

“The interfaith marriage rate among Jews in greater Kansas City is… well over 50 percent. …Whereas I continue to agree with my religiously principled previous position, another set of religious facts has emerged, i.e.: Many of our young people are marrying without regard to the Jewish status of their spouse, but not without regard for Judaism. They are raising Jewish children, and receiving a commitment from their spouse prior to marriage that the family will support Judaism and the Jewish community.”

So his eyes have suddenly been opened by all those new “religious facts” that emerged from intermarriage statistics that we’ve known about since 1990 when the Jewish community had its collective mass freak-out over this. I guess he just got the news.

Another new religious fact that emerged for him is that it was cutting down on business:

Over the years he has noticed that he was officiating at fewer and fewer weddings, which factored into this change of heart.

…Now, Rabbi Levin said he will officiate at the weddings of people who believe they are marrying into the Jewish community.

However, before he marries them, they have to sign a statement along the lines of what he wrote in his temple bulletin:

One of the partners may not be willing to confirm his/her Judaism at this time or in the future, but will need to be able and willing to commit to participating in a Jewish family and being part of the Jewish community. In other words, both parties to the marriage will need to commit to having a completely Jewish family regardless of the Jewish background of one partner in the marriage.

And here’s why:

For the community to solemnize marriages whose very existence opposes the maintenance of the vitality of the community in which the marriage takes place is to propose religious suicide and to lend credibility to the destruction of the very belief system in which the ceremony occurs. …There must exist a reason for the couple to choose marriage within this particular community. It cannot be simply an arbitrary convenience…. We cannot simply solemnize marriages willy-nilly, with no connection to the beliefs or welfare of the community other than some accidental association.

Religious suicide?! Arbitrary convenience?! Willy-nilly?! Accidental association?!

One of the reasons that I’m a Secular Humanist Jew is because I came to understand that Jewish continuity is not a sufficient excuse to treat people like crap.

When Jews look for a rabbi to do an interfaith wedding, it is usually anything but convenient, much less arbitrary. They do so because the Jewish partner has asserted his or her Jewish identity, accidental association or not, and wants to celebrate it as part of this very special life cycle event. So either help them out or don’t. But please refrain from creating stupid signing statements that force couples to live the way you want them to live. If the Judaism you’re serving up is so wonderful, why do you need this?

In a case of similar authoritarianism, Reform Rabbi Mark Miller wrote in The Times of Israel about a rabbinical student – the child of intermarriage – who supports accepting intermarried candidates into the rabbinate:

[His] position is the logical and lamentable outcome of Reform Judaism’s embrace of assimilation, of wanting to be everything to everyone, and of exalting the individual at the expense of the community. There are simply no standards, imperatives, or obligations. The adoration of autonomy led first to compromise, then to appeasement, and now to anarchy. For Rabbis to say there is no difference between the marriage of two Jews and a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew has led to the spectacle of Reform Rabbis officiating at intermarriages with non-Jewish clergy on Shabbat in churches.

Behold yet another reason that I left the Reform movement and embraced Secular Humanistic Judaism. Miller’s lamentable ghetto mentality encapsulates for me everything that is wrong with the course set by Reform Judaism.

Instead of embracing a message of love, tolerance and acceptance, these rabbis stamp their feet and demand “standards, imperatives” and “obligations.” They reject what they see as insufficient “regard” for Judaism.  They condemn any rabbinical acceptance of a couple’s life choices as an “adoration of autonomy” wherein Jews of “accidental association” are pursuing “willy-nilly” weddings that often amount to no more than a “spectacle.”

Levin and Miller may freely offer or deny their wedding services as their consciences dictate. As I see it, they have already lost the battle for the hearts and minds of modern liberal secularized Jews. In the 21st century the clerics are no longer in charge. Rabbis obsessed with the purity of their communities, who provide laundry lists of requirements for who’s in and who’s out, are probably working for the wrong Jews.

If the so-called liberal Jewish movements keep this up, they won’t need to be worried about committing religious suicide. They’ll just peacefully slip away into the recesses of history, irrelevant and forgotten.

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