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January 06, 1989 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-01-06

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

!OPINION

I

Intermarriage

Continued from Page 7

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10

FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 1989

Howard's parents are
members of a Reform temple
where Howard was bar mitz-
vah and where his older sister
was married.
Howard falls in love with
his collee roommate's sister,
Mary, a lovely young lady
whom the Cohen family likes
very much. She is a loving,
sensitive and highly in-
telligent woman, a truly exce-
pional person. The only hitch
is that Mary is a Methodist.
As it happens, Howard is
more committed religiously
than Mary and would like to
be married in his temple.
Mary is agreeable but not
amenable, at least at present,
to conversion. However, Mary
has agreed to provide a
Jewish education for their
children.
While the above plan has
been seriously thought
through, it fails by default.
Rabbi Hirsch, the senior rab-
bi at the Cohen's temple,
refuses to marry Howard and
Mary. He explains that he
cannot do so because one of
them has not been con-
secrated "according to the
heritage of Moses and Israel."
Howard is emotionally
distraught and becomes turn-
ed off to Judaism. His
parents, who have been active
temple members for 30 years,
are livid. Mary, who would
have been a high-potential
future convert, is just plain
confused.
This story has a happy en-
ding — for Mary's Methodist
church. Reverend Hensen will
not only marry the couple, he
welcomes them into his
church with open and warm
arms.
Perhaps a better phrase for
Rabbi Hirsch's position would
be Operation Turnaway — for
that is exactly what he has
accomplished. Instead of
reaching out to Mary, he
turns her away. Instead of
Howard's being encouraged to
become an active member of
the congregation, he is turn-
ed away and completely turn-
ed off. In addition, Howard's
parents will never have the
same enthusiasm for their
temple as they had before
Rabbi Hirsch's rejection.
Who is the winner in my ex-
ample? Clearly, it is the
Methodist church. Who is the
loser? Just as clearly, Rabbi
Hirsch's temple in the short
run and Reform Judaism in
the long run.
It has been said that a
primary reason for the amaz-
ing survival of Jews, Judaism
and Jewish culture has been
our ability to adjust to chang-
ing conditions wherever we
have lived in every part of the
world. Flexibility has been
our salvation. We have been

able to adapt to dynamic
movements in existing socie-
ty and have become survivors
because of it.
But to continue to
perpetuate our religion and
our cultural heritage, we mut
grow. To prosper we must in-
crease our numbers. To sur-
vive we must expand.
The "Committee of 100"
pamphlet, though against in-
termarriage, suggests that
"Jews who marry non-Jews
are not rejected from the
Jewish people. They remain
Jews and they and their
families are always welcome
in the synagogue." That com-
ment, more than anything
else in the pamphlet,
demonstrates an inconsisten-
cy of major proportions.
Consider the logic of what
the committee is saying: a son
of a 30-year-long temple
member has just been re-
jected by his rabbi. He has
been pushed into his bride's
church for an event that is the
cornerstone of his adult life.
Howard is seriously upset.
His parents are now alienated
from the rabbi and the tem-
ple. But the committee wants
Howard Cohen and the rest of
the Reform Jewish communi-
ty to believe that Howard and
his new bride Mary are
"welcome" in Rabbi Hirsch's
temple.
The committee restates its
position by saying that "most
Reform rabbis and congrega-
tions will welcome such
couples if they choose to af-
filiate with the Jewish com-
munity." An equivalent pro-
position would be for a man
who divorces his wife of 30
years for another woman to
extend an invitation to his
former wife to join him and
his wife for dinner every Fri-
day night!
It was not too many years
ago that the number of
Reform rabbis performing in-
terfaith marriages was small.
One reason, of course, was
that the number of requests
was small.
Conditions have changed —
not only with the substan-
tialincrease in interfaith mar-
riages but, likewise, with the
decrease in the Jewish bir-
thrate. Rabbis cannot modify
what happens in the
bedroom, but they can affect
what happens in the living
room, at the dinner table and
in the hearts and minds of
young Jewish adults.
Judaism will survive once
more if the majority of Reform
rabbis-begin to recognize that
the battle for Jewish survival
has taken a new direction and
that to win we need all the
tools, all the psychology and
all the strategy we can collec-
tively muster.

.

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