Why We Help Interfaith Couples Find Rabbis

InterfaithFamily.com has a Clergy Officiation Referral Service. Here’s why.

According to the last National Jewish Population Survey, about 47% of Jewish people getting married in the United States are marrying people who aren’t Jewish. Before 1970, only about 17% of US Jews married non-Jews. In the past, when Jews married non-Jews, the Jewish community interpreted this as an expression of lack of interest in Judaism. In the present, this is not a valid assumption. Many Jews enter interfaith marriage with the wish to retain their Jewish identity and religious practice, and to raise Jewish children, with the person they love. The non-Jewish partner is very often on board with this goal.

[float=left][/float]A 2008 study by sociologist Arnold Dashefsky and the National Center for Jewish Policy Studies found that 87 percent of those intermarried couples who were married by Jewish clergy later raised their children as “Jewish only,” compared to 63 percent of the couples married by co-officiants, non-Jewish clergy or in secular ceremonies. Also, 50 percent said it was very important that their grandchildren be Jewish, compared to 18 percent of the second group.

Traditional Jewish law doesn’t have a category for  interfaith marriage. In past societies where Jewish family law was only binding on Jews and there was no civil marriage, an interfaith relationship had to be unequal and to leave the female partner unprotected by any one legal system. But we don’t live in such a society any longer. It’s ironic that civil marriage makes interfaith marriage possible, but as more Jews enter  interfaith marriages, more want those marriages to be  Jewish. Many (at one time, it was most!) rabbis want to keep Jewish law and don’t perform marriages between Jews and non-Jews.

A wedding is only the beginning of a marriage, and many rabbis and Jewish leaders who don’t believe in officiating at interfaith weddings do a lot of other work to engage interfaith couples and their children in Jewish life. We aren’t pushing every rabbi to officiate at interfaith weddings. We just don’t want potentially interested couples to be pushed away from Jewish life by the traumatic experience of being rejected at the point of marriage.

According to one study, about 50 percent of Reform rabbis are willing to officiate at interfaith weddings. The question is, can every interfaith couple find a rabbi to marry them where they live? For many, the answer is no.

InterfaithFamily.com’s clergy referral service can link interfaith couples with fantastic rabbis and cantors who will help them have deeply meaningful weddings. If we match them up just right, they’ll want Jewish clergy at all their lifecycle events. It could be, as Humphrey Bogart said in Casablanca, the start of a beautiful friendship.

So if you have a friend in an interfaith couple and they are trying to find a rabbi, send them the link to our Clergy Officiation Referral Service. We can find your perfect match.

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2 thoughts on “Why We Help Interfaith Couples Find Rabbis

  1. The officiant referral program this author refers to mainly supplies rabbis who support this organization’s political objectives, namely, the legalization of gay marriage and it’s analogs.  I also found that the service tends to steer couples towards gay and lesbian rabbis.

  2. I am the CEO of InterfaithFamily.com and am responding to Carl Stein’s posting. This posting stems from a personal situation in which IFF refused to list on its Network a Jewish organization that proclaimed on the front page of its website that it supported the traditional view of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Any Jewish organization and rabbi is entitled to have that view, but IFF supports inclusivity, and we will not link to an organization that proclaims on its website in effect that gays and lesbians are not welcome because that is the exact opposite of inclusive.

    We are very proud of our Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service list and the rabbis on the list and we are indifferent to whether they are gay or straight. We do not screen or even ask the question, let alone steer couples to rabbis based on their sexual orientation. The staff of InterfaithFamily.com individually and as a group believe strongly that gay marriage should be legalized, but we don’t ask the rabbis on our list if they support legalization of gay marriage, let alone deliberately refer mainly to rabbis who do. We do ask the rabbis who join our list whether they will officiate at weddings of gay and lesbian couples and we are proud to be able to make referrals to such couples.

    Again, this posting stems from a personal situation and we are not going to discuss it further, or tolerate homophobic comments of any kind.

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