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.
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