Silly Rabbis, Why Do You Want To Marry Wrong?

Silly Rabbis, Why Do You Want To Marry Wrong? May 24, 2013

Joel Alperson, a former national campaign chair for Federations, has a post on the Forward Forum responding to recent discussions about intermarried rabbis and the Reform movement.

With ridiculously un-funny sarcasm, he poses the following “challenge”:

…[T]here are many Christians who are deeply committed to the Torah and have taken it upon themselves to lead Judaicly meaningful lives, including Jewish holiday observance and Jewish studies. Theirs is a life of great passion, knowledge and deep caring for the Jewish people. There are many Christians who support Jewish causes and only wish they could involve themselves more with temples and synagogues, adding to the wonderful environments we try to create in them.

…What better way to allow them to be among those whom God blesses than to give them the opportunity to lead us, as rabbis, to greater levels of Judaic commitment?

What he misses in this failed attempt at humor is that there are already hundreds of rabbis who, according to more traditional interpretations, are not considered Jews.

The reality of the Jewish world is that we are sharply divided already. A Haredi rabbi has no use for a Reform rabbi. He has even less interest in a Reform convert who’s a Reform rabbi. We needn’t even take it to the Haredi extreme. I know Conservative rabbis who do not accept the Jewishness of some ordained Reform converts or patrilineal Reform Jews.

There are also Christians of the type he describes who are Jews by traditional halakhic standards. Some of them are even Hebrew-speaking Israelis who have served in the army and everything! If they want to have rabbis, what difference does it make to him or me?

So while Alperson thinks that he’s being extremely witty with his sardonic appeal to believing Christians to become Reform rabbis, he’s actually missed a key point: Jewish identity is imprecise. Jewish movements need only ensure that their rabbis and leaders share their approach and are considered Jews by their standards.

At a minimum a rabbi can really only represent the core values of her or his movement; nothing more. We already lack any remotely universal approach to Jewish identity or values. According to my understanding, Reform Judaism welcomes intermarried couples, so an intermarried Reform rabbi is absolutely consistent with its approach. If you don’t like it, then don’t be a Reform Jew.

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