Most European Jewish leaders support liberalizing their approach to intermarriage and conversion, a new survey shows.
As the JTA reports, 85 percent of the 251 respondents to a pan-European survey of Jewish leaders felt it was “not a good idea to strongly oppose intermarriage and bar intermarried Jews and their spouses from communal membership.” Further:
… fewer than 27 percent of respondents felt that only those who were born to a Jewish mother or who have undergone an Orthodox conversion should be allowed to become a member of the community. Even among those describing themselves as Orthodox or Modern Orthodox, 43 percent believed that those who have undergone conversion under rabbinic supervision from any denomination should be allowed to join. Similarly, 46 percent of Orthodox respondents agreed that one Jewish parent was enough to justify membership in communal organizations.
These results are surprising, nearly shocking. European Jewish communities are typically centralized, organized around layleaders or official head rabbis, and are marked by traditional observance. They are not known for their welcoming stance on intermarriage or conversion. Case-in-point: the World Union for Progressive Judaism–the international equivalent of the U.S.’s liberal Union for Reform Judaism–has never adopted the URJ’s 26-year-old decision to recognize all children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers as Jewish if the children are raised as Jewish.
But in a continent with tiny Jewish communities–none have more than half a million Jews, and Jews aren’t even 1 percent of the population in any European country–and high rates of intermarriage, a more welcoming approach isn’t simply desirable, it’s essential. There simply aren’t enough inmarried Jews or Jews with two Jewish parents to go around.
Update: Some Jewish leaders in Europe are calling the survey’s results into question, The Jerusalem Post reports. One such quote from that story:
“Who are these Jewish leaders?” asked Asher Gold, spokesman for the Rabbinical Center of Europe. “European Jews consider rabbis to be the only leaders of communities, and no rabbi would agree with these findings.”
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