I led a session on “changing attitudes towards intermarriage” today at Limmud Chicago. It was fun!
An interesting mix of people came – several who identified themselves as Orthodox, several young adults, several who looked like grandparents, and in between. We did a “take the temperature of the room” exercise where I asked people if they agreed, disagreed, or weren’t sure about, the following statements (thanks to Benjamin Maron for piloting this approach at TribeFest):
* if a rabbi and a priest or minister co-officiate, it’s not a Jewish wedding
* if you intermarry, your family will be a Jewish family only if your partner converts
* you can only raise Jewish children if both parents are Jewish
* if you have a Christmas tree in your house, your children won’t be Jewish.
The more traditional folks present expressed concerns on several fronts – a wedding between a Jew and someone not Jewish under Jewish law is not a Jewish wedding, why does a rabbi have to officiate, why couldn’t a judge officiate; what is the future going to be when there are so many people who identify as Jews who aren’t halachically Jewish; people won’t be recognized as Jews in Israel; etc. The very nice thing about the discussion is that it was civil and respectful on all sides. I don’t think anything was resolved, but I did offer my idea that everyone in the Jewish community could recognize self-identifying but non-halachic Jews as Jews for all purposes except those where halachic status matter.
I saw a lot of heads nodding when I talked about Jewish partners in interfaith relationships who say they get more Jewishly active because of the relationship, and partners who are not Jewish who get very Jewishly involved. People I talked with after the session appeared to be thirsting for ways to positively respond to and engage interfaith couples.
I haven’t been to a Limmud before and to be honest when I arrived it looked like a mostly traditional set of attendees that made me wonder if anyone would come to my session and how it would be received. But it looked like perhaps 10% of the registration did come and it was a very lively discussion. It was great to be there, and I want to especially thank Debbie Burton, who has written many articles for InterfaithFamily.com, and has commented frequently on our discussion boards, for inviting me.
This post originally appeared on www.interfaithfamily.com and is reprinted with permission.