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This article is reprinted with permission of The Jerusalem Post.
LONDON--It is time to abandon "racist" ideas and encourage intermarried couples to raise their children as Jews, according to World Jewish Congress leader Edgar Bronfman.
In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle, to be published in London on Friday, he said he believed "the whole concept of Jewish peoplehood, and the lines being pure, begins to sound a bit like Nazism, meaning racism." He had come to this conclusion while working on a book, A Jewish Renaissance for a Significant Future. "I hope it will create a lot of conversation on the part of thinking Jews about what we're not doing that we should be doing," he said.
Canadian-born Bronfman, whose fortune derives from the giant Seagram liquor empire, told the paper he had reached his conclusion from the "dated communal attitudes to the high rate of intermarriage in North America.
"It was fine 100 years ago," and it can probably be stopped at its current level, "but we're certainly not going to turn it off.
"Now we have a choice. We can double the amount of Jews that there are, or we can irritate everybody who's intermarried and lose them all." It was not necessary to insist on the non-Jewish partner converting, he continued: "I think the only condition we should make is that should bring up their children as Jewish." Some might convert in time, but "the rabbi who refuses to marry such couples is turning people off," he said. "My answer to 'who is a Jew' is 'anybody who wants to be.'" People did not emigrate to America to become better Jews but to have a better life: "And now we have five generations of that... The price of becoming successful in America is that people have forgone their Judaism.
"I don't want to give up on secular Jews. I want them to become more Jewish." All seven of his children from five marriages were brought up as Jews, he said, but only one, Matthew, is an observant Jew. "That was his choice." Bronfman, chairman of Hillel International, was in London to discuss the expansion of Hillel student organizations on campuses throughout Europe.
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