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March 28, 1986 - Image 74

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-03-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

a

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

74 Friday, March 28, 1986

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TRENDS

In L.A., Reform Officiate
At Mixed Marriages

BY TOM TUGEND
Special to The Jewish News

Los Angeles — "I officiate at
mixed marriages for the same
reason that the Orthodox won't.
Simply put, I don't want the
Jewish people to die out," ex-
plains a veteran Los Angeles
Reform rabbi.
The rabbi, whom we shall call
Blau because he does not wish
his real name used, is among the
of Reform rabbis
estimated
in the greater Los Angeles area
who will conduct weddings bet-
ween Jewish and gentile part-
ners.
About an equal percentage of
Jews is believed to take non-
Jewish spouses. If the offici-
ating rabbis at such marriage
services share a single convic-
tion, it is that given America's
social freedom, and more so
California's, there is no method
of preventing the couple from
getting married, one way or the
other.
"The point at which a mixed
couple will approach a rabbi is
after they have set the wedding
date," says Blau. "If-the rabbi
theri sends them away, we lose
not just the gentile partner but
also the Jew, as well as their
descendants.
"Our choice," he adds, "is
whether we live in America as a
people whose core is a commun-
ity of faith or whether we die out
correctly in the spirit of hal-

40/

acha."

Beyond general agreement on
this basic rationale, the condi-
tions under which a rabbi will
marry a mixed couple vary wide-
ly. "Each rabbi's decision is an
intensely personal and difficult
one," says Rabbi Lennard R.
Thal, the region's chief Reform
administrator as director of the
Pacific Southwest Council of the
Union of American Hebrew Con-
gregations (UAHC).
As pre-conditions, many rab-
bis will insist that the couple
pledges to rear its children as
Jews and send them to religious
schools. Other demand that the
gentile spouse take an intensive
course of Jewish studies and
drop any church affiliation.
Some will co-officiate at a
ceremony with clergy of dif-
ferent faiths, others refuse to
do so.
A curious fact observed by
Thal and others close to the
scene is that in almost all cases
it is the older, more seasoned
rabbis who are willing to per-
form mixed marriages, while
younger rabbis are not.
Along the same line, Thal
notes that there are a number of
rabbis who earlier in their
careers declined to officiate and
later on changed their minds. "I
cannot remember a single in-
stance in which the reverse is
true," he adds.
A case in point is Rabbi Henri
Front of Temple Beth David,
who says he once opposed mixed
wedding ceremonies but re-

versed his position after teach-
ing an introductory Judaism
class attended by many Jews
and non-Jews preparing for
marriage.
"After a year's experience
with hundreds of these people,
I realized that my former
positon was in error," Front
says. "We live in an age of
romantic love and people are
going to get married regardless
of who marries them."

"If the rabbi sends
them away, we lose
not just the gentile
partner but also the
Jew, as well as their
descendants."

Of the eight Reform rabbis in
Southern California who are
women, all fairly young, none
will officiate at mixed weddings.
But Thal believes that "the
dividing line between those who
will and will not do it seems to
be along age lines, rather than
gender.
Blau says he performs some
150 wedding ceremonies a year,
of which about half are inter-
marriages. In the latter case, the
largest number of referrals come
from photographers who have
been hired by the couples. The
second most frequent contacts
are through referrals by Or-
thodox and Conservative rabbis.
It is not entirely uncommon
for congregational rabbis of all
denominations, who will not of-
ficiate at mixed marriages
themselves, to look the other
way when their cantors or assis-
tant rabbis perform the services.
Another occasional alternative
for non-Reform rabbis, says
Blau, is to perform "quickie"
24-hour conversions of the gen-
tile partners so that legally both
spouses are Jewish when they
step under the chupah.
Blau discusses such little
trade secrets matter-of-factly,
but he does resent the "one or
two" of his Reform colleagues
who charge more for performing
mixed marriages than regular
ones. On the other hand, he is
proud that many of the mixed
couples he marries join his
congregation, and that a high
percentage of the gentile part-
ners later convert fully to
Jeudaism.
There is a general belief,
though no hard statistics, that
the rate of intermarriages — and
the proportion of Reform rabbis
willing to perform them — is
higher in California than in the
rest of the country.
Thal says he doesn't have the
data to validate the belief, but
notes that California has. fre-
quently initiated new trends in
Jewish life. Blau also has no

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