Intermarriage not ideal, but is realityQ: Chelsea Clinton, raised Methodist, and Marc Mezvinsky, Jewish, will wed this weekend. Statistics show that 37 percent of Americans have a spouse of a different faith. Statistics also show that couples in interfaith marriages are "three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages." Is interfaith marriage good for American society? Is it good for religion? What is lost -and gained -when religious people intermarry?
Judaism is unlike other religions in that it is more than just a faith community - it is also a peoplehood with a strong cultural identity. For the Jewish community, intermarriage is not ideal: Data consistently demonstrates that families with two Jewish parents are more likely, in every measure, to pass Jewish identity and engagement along to the next generation.
Judaism teaches that in-marriage is a mitzvah, a sacred act that we are commanded to fulfill. As such, it's always the preferred choice for Jews to make, contributing to the continuity of our peoplehood. But to ignore the increasing trend of intermarriage, no matter how troubling we may find it, is shortsighted and denies not just the facts but the families themselves.
In 2008, the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism adopted the principles of keruv, of welcome and outreach to intermarried couples. Merely accepting the presence of intermarried couples in our community was no longer enough, and so the LCCJ established a keruv commission to help congregations and communities reach out to intermarried couples and encourage them to join us. Our policy of keruv embraces the Jewish partners of interfaith families, as well as supporting the spiritual journey of non-Jewish partners by deepening their connections to the Jewish community and people. By continuously and tirelessly engaging with families who have chosen the path of intermarriage, we can show them the beauty living Jewishly.
In itself, intermarriage may not be ideal for the Jewish community - but it is a reality that we cannot afford to ignore. Ultimately, our goal must be the creation of strong, committed Jewish families. And if we can achieve that goal through both in-marriage and intermarriage, then we must make keruv, outreach and welcome, a priority for our synagogues and communities.
July 28, 2010; 3:15 PM ET
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