Changing Attitudes-Engaging Intermarried Jews and Their Families – By Rabbi Hyim Shafner

June 19, 2009

What should our attitude be when an interfaith family comes to our Shul or community?  Should we actively try to engage interfaith families or might this give people the impression it is OK to intermarry?  What should a Rabbi do when a couple comes to him who perhaps knows little about Judaism, and may not even realize intermarriage is frowned upon?  Should the rabbi reject them?  Rebuke them?  Accept them?  Help with their wedding, since they will certainly be marrying?  Does it make a difference if the man or woman is the Jew?

The word intermarriage rings for many in the Jewish community like the sound of a (wooden) coffin nail; and indeed, 75 years ago in America it was.  A whole generation of American Jews to whose parents Jewish life and Jewish tradition were important, viewed marrying a non-Jew as their ticket to becoming an American instead of a Jew, the way to a safer, freer and more prosperous life without Judaism.   Appropriately, parents tore their clothing and sat shiva for intermarried children because often those intermarriages did signify a Jewish end.

As an Orthodox rabbi I believe Jews should marry other Jews.  Never the less I think we do damage to the Jewish people if we react to intermarriage today no differently than we did in the past generation.  Read the rest of this entry »