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June 08, 1990 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-06-08

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• Too many golfing partners to
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FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 1990

Rabbi Or No Rabbi, Jewishness
Isn't Affected, New Study Says


Specicil to The Jewish News


recent study of mixed
marriages has
challenged two basic
assumptions: that the of-
ficiation by a rabbi at such
unions will raise the couple's
level of Jewishness, and that
refusal by a rabbi to officiate
will increase the risk of
According to Egon Mayer,
a professor of sociology at
Brooklyn College in New
York, it makes little or no
difference whether or not a
rabbi conducts the marriage
of a non-Jew or converted
Jew to a person born Jewish.
Mayer, who conducted the
study for the American Jew-
ish Committee's William
Petschek Jewish Family
Center, based it on a sample
of 200 non-Jews married to
Jews and 109 converts to
Judaism who responded to a
The responses came from
15 major Jewish population
centers in nine states. Two-
thirds of the sample were
women, nearly three-
quarters of whom had one or
more children. Only the non-
Jewish or converted partner
was questioned.
The average age of the re-
spondents was 39, and they
had been married an
average of 10 years. Mayer
divided his respondents into
three groups — those whose
marriages were conducted
by a rabbi; those whose re-
quests for rabbinical officia-
tion were refused; and those
who never asked a rabbi to
A further breakdown
showed that 58 of 200 mixed
couples were married by a
rabbi, and 10 had
ceremonies in which a rabbi
and Christian clergy jointly
Of the 58 couples, 12 had
been refused by a rabbi
before one agreed to perform
their wedding. The other 142
mixed couples were not mar-
ried by rabbis, 27 because
they were refused. The rest
never asked.
The point made by the
study is that there was no
appreciable difference
among these several
categories with respect to
Jewish practice and com-
mitment by the non-Jewish
or converted partner.
The questionnaire focused
on four "indicators of Jew-
ishness": religious ac-


tivities; Jewish communal
activities; Jewish cultural
activities; and Jewish-
oriented activities.
A sample question on re-
ligion was, "Did you attend
a Passover seder this year?"
Communal activism was
explored by the question,
"Are you a member of a Jew-
ish congregation?" In the
area of cultural activities,
the questionnaire asked "Do
you regularly read any Jew-
ish periodicals?" A sample
on attitudes was, "Do you
feel comfortable in Jewish
Mayer concluded from the
replies that rabbinic officia-
tion "has relatively little, if
any, connection to the ex-
pressed Jewishness in the
family lives of non-Jews
married to Jews."
His second conclusion was
that "rabbinic refusal to of-
ficiate at mixed marriages
seems to have relatively
little, if any, connection with
large-scale alienation from
Jewish attachments."
Reform and Reconstruc-
tionist rabbis officiate at



mixed marriages, though
some individual rabbis of
those movements will not.
Conservative and Or-
thodox rabbis refrain for the
most part from officiating at
mixed marriages.
The rabbis who perform
mixed marriages do so in the
hope of encouraging Jew-
ishness in the non-Jewish
Steven Bayme, director of
AJCommittee's Petschek
Center as well as its Jewish
Communal Affairs Depart-
ment, characterized Mayer's
conclusions as the 'null"
The hypothesis "that no
positive connection may be
posited between rabbinic of-
ficiation and non-officiation
and subsequent (Jewish)
communal involvement"
challenged "one of the
prevailing assumptions in
the debate over rabbinic of-
ficiation," Bayme said.
He added that "as the rate,
and perhaps even the in-
cidence of conversion to
Judaism declines because of
the increased acceptability

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