Changes in the Conservative Movement?

Arnold Eisen, the incoming chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, one of two main rabbinical schools of the Conservative movement, had something positive to say about intermarried families in a recent Q&A in the Journal News, a newspaper in Westchester County, New York:

If we have intermarried families, it’s our job to make them so welcome that they want to be Jewish families.

It’s a brief statement in an interview that attempts to cover a lot of ground. We haven’t seen any more detailed policy statements on intermarriage from Eisen since he was elected chancellor, but here’s what he wrote for us a few years ago about what the Jewish communal response to intermarriage should be. It’s not clear whether his position is different now that he is steeping into one of the key seats of authority in the Conservative movement.

For a point of comparison, here’s a sermon on intermarriage from the outgoing chancellor, Rabbi Ismar Schorsch. While he does say that “the escalating incidence of intermarriage is decimating our ranks,” he takes a realistic view about why intermarriage happens:

I believe that if our children end up marrying non-Jews we should not reject them. Their choice of a mate is usually not made out of pique with us or in rebellion against Judaism. They happened to fall in love with a non-Jew because that is where circumstances, which admittedly we might have better controlled, placed them.

There seems to be an increased emphasis on intermarriage in Conservative synagogues lately. In a Conservative synagogue in Tucson, a rabbi left copies of the Conservative movement’s statement on intermarriage (“Edud: Passionate and Compassionate Outreach to Intermarried Families”) on all seats the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

And it’s nice to hear a Conservative rabbi celebrating his 25th anniversary at a Silicon Valley congregation talking about doing more to reach interfaith families.

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