Unsilencing the Intermarried


The Conservative movement’s rabbinical organization may rethink its ban on intermarried speakers at its conventions, according to Ben Harris of JTA.

“The policy is we will only invite speakers who are either single or, if they are married, are not intermarried,” said Rabbi Joel Meyers, the R[abbinical] A[ssembly]’s vice president.

Which is proving to be a problem given the prevalence of intermarriage. Organizers of the R.A.’s convention in Washington Feb. 10-14 discussed inviting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to speak, but nixed it when they realized it violated the R.A.’s long-standing, but little known, policy. The policy even extends to the non-Jewish spouses of Jews, such as Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg, the R.A.’s incoming president, told JTA that the organization would reconsider the policy. Harris quotes Rabbi Charles Simon, executive director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, as saying “I don’t think anybody thinks very much of this policy.” to show skepticism among the Conservative rank-and-file, but it’s a little misleading. Simon is the most progressive, proactive voice for outreach to the intermarried in the national Conservative movement, so his opinions need to be taken with a grain of salt.

However, carrying more weight are the words of Rabbi Bradely Artson, dean of the Ziegler rabbinical school in Los Angeles:

“It’s the right priority… but the policy isn’t the right policy for the goal.”

Even if one sets aside one’s feelings about intermarriage, the ban on intermarried speakers is both impractical and pointless. Impractical because so many people in prominent positions are intermarried.  Pointless because nobody goes to the podium at the R.A. convention and promotes intermarriage–and few attendees probably give much thought to whether the speaker is intermarried or not. Further, intermarriage is such a common reality at so many rabbis’ synagogues that it’s silly to ban intermarried speakers from the movement’s biggest event. I doubt the same ban applies on the local level. It’s another case where the membership of a movement is two steps ahead of the leadership.

3 thoughts on “Unsilencing the Intermarried”

  • this ban is, in your words, impractical and pointless. if i go to hear a Jewish speaker, i go specifically because i am interested in what that person has to say and could care less about their personal life. and even if a Jewish speaker is intermarried, that does not mean they are giving lectures to promote intermarriage (they usually know better than that). i doubt Noah Feldman tells his students at Harvard that they should all intermarry. no, he teaches them about law and i’m pretty sure they’re far more concerned with passing his class than with Mrs. Feldman. though i’m sure some seem a little star struck because their law professor was at the center of a major debate last summer.
    Jewish speakers give lectures to discuss their latest book, film, etc., and those should be the focal point for attending such lectures rather than wondering if their husband or wife is Jewish. this may not be the greatest example…but look at Barbra Streisand. ok, i’m definitely not a fan of her work. but she came to mind for this after i recently read about her in one of Nate Bloom’s celebrity blogs. her husband (James Brolin) is not Jewish. do people still flock to see her even though she’s intermarried? of course they do. all they care about is seeing her perform (which is rare these days). her marriage is probably not even a second though to most of her fans.

  • Harry Reid’s wife converted to Mormonism before she married Reid. Does that really make it an intermarriage?

    BTW this website constantly mentions gentiles who become Jews as a result of intermarriage. Why not mention any Jews who went the other way?

  • dave you are right with your opuinions
    The Conservative movement is a religous oraganization that considers it sel halachic they should not invite interrmaried speakers!

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