Global, Identity, Politics, Religion

…Oh, what the hell, Just don't bother….

Since Israel doesn’t really think anyone in the Diaspora should convert, apparently the Conservative movement, in a very non-typical move, has decided to accept this ruling and no longer bother.
After several years of actively attempting to encourage intermarried families to become “one-faith families,” since the efforts made to stem the rather strong social forces we live with in the Diaspora didn’t have immediate and overwhelming success, and were even faced with contradiction from within their own movement by its own Men’s Club, in the Men’s Club “Keruv” program, they just decided to move on to other important topics, such as whether or not New York City is actually the center of Judaism and the original site of the Temple.

These different approaches to the intermarried caused such concern among the other arms of the Conservative movement that a committee was established in an attempt to find common ground. The result is a pamphlet that will be distributed in the coming days in which all arms of the Conservative movement speak with one voice — decidedly softer in tone on conversions — in spelling out their principles on outreach:
-All are welcome.
-There is a commitment to fostering Jewish marriage and family life.
-Interfaith couples are welcome.
There is “nurturing and support for the spiritual journey of non-Jewish partners who join us, to deepen their connections to the synagogue, the Jewish community and to the Jewish people, and to inspire them to consider conversion.”
…It was also a compromise that all arms could live with; an initial draft didn’t even contain the word “conversion.”

Is it just me, or is someone from the Onion contributing to JTA these days?

8 thoughts on “…Oh, what the hell, Just don't bother….

  1. This article is a brief summary of a more complex topic. Here’s a bit more detail:
    http://www.interfaithfamily.com/arts_and_entertainment/popular_culture/From_Exclusionary_Indifference_to_Inclusionary_Outreach.shtml
    A book with more details on the topic is “A Place in the Tent”
    http://www.ekspublishing.com/acts-of-kindness/place-in-the-tent-intermarriage-and-conservative-judaism
    The general concept is that if a non-Jewish spouse is willing support their children getting a Jewish education and support Jewish communal life, they should be welcomed with open arms. They should be welcomed to participate in any thing that halacha doesn’t require a Jew to do.
    You’re more likely to have a family with a good connection to Judaism when both parents feel welcome. Pushing conversion on someone who isn’t interested or performing a quicky conversion without seriousness doesn’t benefit anyone.

  2. Yeah, this article pretty much left me with my mouth hanging open. Maybe the guys at the Onion had to get side jobs. It’s a tough economy you know. And as a convert, I just can’t understand people who don’t want to convert to Judaism but want to become presidents of the synagogues and heads of the sisterhoods. That stuff wouldn’t have flown over so well in the Catholic church. But I think Jews are much more worried about their numbers than Catholics are.

  3. “The general concept is that if a non-Jewish spouse is willing support their children getting a Jewish education and support Jewish communal life, they should be welcomed with open arms.”
    If…if…if…
    Maybe if we started with the welcoming, open arms, the children would stand a much better chance of getting that Jewish education and support in communal life.

  4. I got the idea from the article that people were upset that the document Al ha-Derekh was insisting that non-Jews couldn’t take leadership positions in synagogues. I was under the impression that it was the policy of the Conservative movement that non-Jews cannot take such positions, and that Jews who are married to non-Jews cannot be synagogue presidents. At any rate, that’s the policy at my Conservative synagogue. My synagogue has a barely functioning Men’s Club, so whatever keruv project the larger group has initiated is certainly not happening at my shul. On the other hand, there are actually quite a few people in the shul who have converted to Judaism, including spouses – sometimes after quite a few years. Sometimes I wonder whether the people who supposedly run the Conservative movement have any idea what actually happens in Conservative shuls outside of New York City and the Upper West Side.

  5. ML,
    If, if if, my hypothetical is 5% of intermarried families then this is a change that would make Jewish communal life more welcoming to 5% of intermarried families and make 5% more children better educated and more comfortable in Jewish environments. That is a good thing. You seem to be making the assumption that merely not pushing conversion and letting non-Jews assume roles that are halachically permissible somehow pushes away families with two Jewish parents. I’d love to see some evidence of that. I do know many cases where when an intermarried sibling is pushed out of the community then the rest of the family (even those with two Jewish parents) feel less welcome. Why shouldn’t we be trying to limit the number of times this happens?
    The only negative argument I know of is the “role model” rationale. i.e. if children have intermarried role models they won’t consider marrying Jewish a priority. This argument falls flat for me. If they value Jewish communal life they are more likely to look for a spouse with the same values. Also, if they do intermarry (and this happens to a non-trivial number of people even in the Orthodox world), they will have role models and examples of how to make it work.
    Rebecca,
    was under the impression that it was the policy of the Conservative movement that non-Jews cannot take such positions, and that Jews who are married to non-Jews cannot be synagogue presidents.
    I’m sure this is the policy of some synagogues and the stated opinion of some national leaders, but it is not a hard-line policy. The main requirement for USCJ membership relating to this topic is that non-Jews cannot be full voting members of the synagogue. This rules out a non-Jew personally being on the board (and I’m not sure anyone is challenging this issue), but if they want to lead a major social action program or, if qualified, want to take a major role in youth education, more power to them!
    The main critique of Al ha-Derekh that I know of is the title. The entire document is framed on the assumption that the end goal is conversion. It’s nice if people feel more welcome and it’s nice if they want to personally participate in Jewish learning and educate their children, but that’s only because those are steps on the path to conversion and not good things in-and-of themselves. It is more welcoming to treat any involvement as good and, treat conversion and a personal issue and decision.

  6. The only negative argument I know of is the “role model” rationale. i.e. if children have intermarried role models they won’t consider marrying Jewish a priority. This argument falls flat for me. If they value Jewish communal life they are more likely to look for a spouse with the same values. Also, if they do intermarry (and this happens to a non-trivial number of people even in the Orthodox world), they will have role models and examples of how to make it work.
    dd, God bless you! I make this case all the time. Communities need great, intermarried and convert role models. As a 1/4 Jew by blood, I generally assume that most leaders (while well-intentioned) are not experienced in this identity struggle to counsel me or my like-parented brethren.

  7. 1/4th Jew by blood
    What does this mean? If you come from a family where either or both of the parents are a convert, you would be 4/4ths Jew. This “by blood” seems to imply you are not Jewish according to normalized Halacha.

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