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January 05, 1990 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-01-05

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'Acceptability' In Mixed Marriage Dilemma


Editor Emeritus


ntermarriage has never
ceased being treated as
the most serious threat to
Jewish continuity. The urgen-
cy of its increasing
seriousness demands studies
with a view toward as much
relief from mounting dangers
to our spiritual and life-
abiding dignities by the col-
lective effort of our ablest and
most dedicated scholars.
Through the centuries the
responses by families in
which mixed marriages oc-
curred were to sit shivah, to
go into mourning, to reject
those married out of the faith,
to disinherit them. Such sen-
timents still exist to a degree.
They are not as extensive.
Therefore the developing
submission that is now con-
ceded as acceptability
because the rabbis become
much more deeply involved
with submission to that term.
We know there is no
yielding in Orthodoxy. Few
Reform rabbis totally refuse
to officiate at mixed mar-
riages. There is an increasing
trend among Conservatives to
officiate at such ceremonies
and the concessions are
ascribable to the hope that it
is necessary to encourage the
raising of children of such
marriages in anticipation

that the pledges to educate
and rear them as Jews will be
The trends in rabbinic
ranks are importantly
evaluated in a study con-
ducted with the encourage-
ment of the American Jewish
The AJCommittee's study
entitled "Intermarriage and
Rabbinic Officiation" and
conducted by Prof. Egon
Mayer of Brooklyn College,
reaches these conclusions:
Rabbinic officiation at
mixed marriages has
relatively little, if any, con-
nection to the expressed
Jewishness in the family
lives of the non-Jews mar-
ried to Jews. Similarly, rab-
binic refusal to officiate at
mixed marriages seems to
have relatively little, if any,
connection with large
scale alienation from
Jewish attachments?'
Egon Mayer contends that
"public opinion and com-
munal policies toward inter-
marriage shifted dramatical-
ly within the Jewish Com-
munity since the 1970s from
feelings of outrage to
strategies of outreach."
Increasingly emerging as a
problem involving both rab-
binic duties and communal
responses, the study primari-
ly deals with the performing
of mixed marriages, conver-

sions, numerous com-
mitments and the negations
that are challenging with
depressing results. It is im-
portant to indicate the major
findings of Prof. Mayer's
study, which are summarized
by the AJCommittee in the
• A substantial minority
(almost one-third) who
were refused their first re-

The Jewish
responsibility may
therefore be to
return to the roots.

quest for officiation by a
rabbi found another rabbi
to meet their request.
Almost another one-third
proceeded with their
original wedding plans
without a rabbi and a bit
over a third proceeded to
marry without the benefit
of any clergy, priest or
• Seventy-four percent of
respondents who ex-
perienced a rabbinic
rebuff felt unencouraged
by the rabbi to remain in
synagogue. Nonetheless,
the great majority (seventy-
two percent) did not feel
the refusal was a reason to
distance themselves from

• By the same token, not
all those whose request for
rabbinic officiation was
met with acceptance were
religiously transformed by
the experience. Nor does it
appear that rabbinic of-
ficiation is necessarily a
prologue to subsequent
conversion. Sixty percent
responded that rabbinic of-
ficiation made no dif-
ference at all; only eight
percent reported that it
made their family life more
Jewish. Converts married
by rabbis reported more
favorable effects.
• Those who sought rab-
binic officiation and were
refused were generally
more favorably disposed
toward being Jewish than
those who never asked, but
not as favorably disposed
as those whose marriages
were in fact conducted by
a rabbi.
• Few rabbis who con-
sented to officiate at mixed
marriages seem to have us-
ed the opportunity to en-
courage the non-Jewish
partner to convert. And
although those who were
married by rabbis were
more likely to have con-
sidered conversion than
those who had been rebuff-
ed, the data suggests that
rabbinic officiation had no
impact on the incidence of
postmarital conversion.

• Occasional family-
centered celebrations,
such as the lighting of
candles at Chanukah, are
widespread among mixed-
marrieds although public
religious expressions, such
as synagogue attendance,
is far less prevalent. Rab-
binic officiation is not a
although the group most
remote from Jewish
religious activity are the
mixed marrieds who never
asked rabbis to officiate at
their weddings.
In an important commen-
tary on the Mayer studies, Dr.
Steven Bayme, director of the
communal affairs department
of the AJC, drew attention to
the commitments and
challenges that ensue,
As the rate, and perhaps
even the incidence, of con-
version to Judaism
declines because of the in-
creased acceptability of in-
termarriage, rabbis who
do perform intermarriages
should reconsider whether
their actions are in fact ad-
vancing the goals they ar-
ticulate. Conversely, those
who do not officiate should
ask whether they have ex-
plained their position to
the intermarrying couple
in a sensitive and
Continued on Page 38

Hatreds Again Despite USSR Boastings


n the early era of appeals
for support of the Zionist
ideal were met with
venomous rejections by
radical factions in Jewry.
Their contentions were that
only in socialism lay the solu-
tion to anti-Semitism. Of
course, the leftists in all ranks
also claimed that their ideas
were the solutions to all ills
in mankind. Yet while they
propagated such views, the
chief advocates of anti-

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Vol. XCVI No. 19


January 5, 1990


Jewishness were trained
among them.
Russia always gave comfort
to such prejudices even under
Communism. While there is
a boasting in the Communist
supported law in the USSR
that anti-Semitism is a crime
against the state, the vilest
acts kept emerging in
evidence of a continuing Rus-
sian adherence to the worst in
Now this is becoming
especially evident in the
pogrom-threatening Pamyat
"Through Glasnost, Dark-
ly," an essay published in the
New York Times written by
Vladimir Voinovich, in a
translation from the Russian,
paints a very dark picture of
current anti-Jewish horrors
in the USSR. Voinovich, iden-
tified as an emigre Russian
satirist, makes these revela-
tions and condemnations of
the revived and growing
hatreds of Jews:
The flame of nationalist
passion is growing hotter.

The non-Russian republics
are hostile to neighbors, to
ethnic minorities, to Rus-
sian domination. In the
Russian republic, news-
papers and magazines
with circulations in the
millions print fascist pro-
paganda. Their concern is
not to find a way out of the
impasse but to find so-
meone to blame. What they,
of course, find is that the
Jews are to blame.
The Jews made the
Revolution, served in the
first secret police, were in
charge of collectivization.
By a Jew, they mean
anyone who is completely
Jewish, half Jewish, a
quarter Jewish, an eighth
Jewish, or any conceivable
computable fraction
thereof. A person with a
Jewish wife, daughter-in-
law, sister-in-law is a Jew.

The Jews ruined Russia
before and they're doing it
again, by taking a
disproportionate number
of places in the Academy of

Sciences, the Writers'
Union and in the world of
music and chess. The
critics see no significance
in the fact that for more
than 30 years there has not
been a single Jew in a pro-
minent place on the Polit-
buro, in the Council of
Ministers, in the command
of the army and KGB.
The country is coming
apart at the seams. There
is no meat, soap has
vanished, sugar is ration-
ed. But more and more
people are becoming in-
volved with the Jewish
question, not the produc-
tion of goods. This is
especially true since there
are no obstacles to discuss-
ing this problem. But
ideology is an obstacle to
Even though ideology
has been long dead, it in-
fluences people just as a
corpse in a room would.
Jewish arrivals in Israel, in
the new emmigration from
the USSR, report an even ex-

panded oppression. They in-
dicate a growing fear of prac-
tices bordering on terror. It
adds emphasis to the belief
that 750,000 Jews are ex-
pected to seek means of leav-
ing Russia for Israel.
That the Russian anti-
Jewishness is as inhumanly
atrocious under Communism
as it was under the czars is
now becoming especially
revealing in East Germany.
Incidents of resorts to reviv-
ed Nazi tactics are causing
fears and concerns. Revela-
tions of the spreading terrors
in East Germany were reveal-
ed in a special article from
East Berlin by David Binder
on Dec. 11 in the New York
Times. Some of the occur-
rences described in this arti-
cle show a return to the ex-
tremist means of subjecting
Jews to humiliations. The
Times article shows how the
hatreds are resorted to. The
following being some of the
quoted threats to Jews:
Quoting Marion Kant, a
Continued on Page 38

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