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December 19, 2003 - Image 84

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-19

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Integrating Intermarrieds

Conservative movement explores outreach approaches.

DON COHEN
Special to the Jewish News

W

ill Conservative Jews
become less conservative
when it comes to the
issue of intermarriage?
Time will tell, but the movement is
looking to better serve congregants who
have been touched by intermarriage.
Early this month, Rabbi Joseph
Krakoff of Congregation Shaarey Zedek
participated with 15 other Conservative
rabbis from across the nation in what
he describes as a "think tank"- to "talk
about the issues and do a better job as a
movement and with our congregations
of making intermarried households a
more integral part of synagogue life."
The importance of the intensive
two-day session on intermarriage in Los
Angeles, sponsored by the Federation of
Jewish Men's Clubs, became clear when
all the participating rabbis raised their
hands when asked if they had a non-
Jewish relative somewhere in their fami-
ly tree.
"We immediately understood our
own family experiences as a microcosm
of the American Jewish reality today,"

Rabbi Krakoff said. "It was clear that
there is an immediate need to create
authentic opportunities for outreach
and inclusion within the realm of syna-
gogue life.
"The question is a complicated one:
How can we be inclusive while main-
taining the
integrity of our
tradition?" he
said.
Regarding
tradition, the
movement
remains clear on
its standards. In
1995, the
Leadership
Council of
Rabbi Krakoff
Conservative
Judaism reaf-
firmed standards set by the Committee
on Jewish Law and Standards of the
Rabbinical Assembly that upheld matri-
lineal descent, and reserved membership
in Conservative synagogues and affiliat-
ed organizations, as well as ritual hon-
ors, such as being called to the Torah,
for Jews.
It said, in part, "While the

Conservative Movement acknowledges
the individual and social circumstances
that have given rise to an increase rate
of intermarriage, it is committed to the
ideological imperatives of encouraging
in-marriages and conversions."
But what can be done short of loos-
ening these standards? That is what the
rabbis, the movement and the congre-
gations are dedicated to finding out.

Walking That Line

At the forefront of the keruv (outreach)
effort, the name the movement has
given to its interfaith efforts, is the
Conservative Movement's Federation of
Jewish Men's Clubs. Its 2001 publica-
tion Building the Faith: A Book of
Inclusion for Dual-Faith Families has just
been enhanced by a new publication,
Let's Talk About It ... A Book of Support
and Guidance for Families Experiencing
Intermarriage.
"There is no sense in hiding the fact
that there is intermarriage," said Rabbi
Krakoff, who finds the book a useful
and important tool to facilitate discus-
sion "in a safe and nurturing environ-
ment." Plans are under way to begin

such discussions at his synagogue in the
coming year.
At the Los Angeles meeting, the rab-
bis discussed relating to non-Jewish
marriage partners and in-laws, the role
of the Jewish partner and grandparents
in interfaith marriages and the impact
on religious practice.
"We looked at non-Jewish characters
in the Bible, including Shifrah, Puah
and Yitro, and how they enhanced
Jewish life through their intimate rela-
tionships with Jews," Rabbi Krakoff
said.
"It is increasingly apparent to me
that we have the distinct opportunity to
amplify the commitment and identity
of born-Jews as well a _ s create a culture
of non Jews who are Chevrei Yisrael-
friends of the Jews ā€” willing to play an
active role in raising Jewish children
while maintaining a sense of attachment
to Jewish life and the synagogue.
"We must focus on helping Jews
retain a strong commitment to Jewish
life," Rabbi Krakoff said, "while we cre-
ate a safe place for the non-Jewish part-
ner and the children to experience the
joy of Judaism." Iā€”

New Pathway

Ann Arbor's Jewbilation o ers another option for intermarrieds.

SHELLI LIEBMAN DORFMAN
Staff Writer

Ann Arbor

omewhere between "no place
to go" and "getting lost in the
huffle" is a unique Shabbat
service offered at the Ann
Arbor-based Jewbilation.
Founded by the Rev. Lauren
Isenberg Zinn, Jewbilation serves as a
fellowship primarily for interfaith/
intermarried families and couples who
want a connection to Judaism.
For Rev. Zinn, who is Jewish and
married to a man born a Christian, the

12/19
2003

60

congregation is the answer ā€¢ to a person-
al and familial quest. "For so long I
had been searching for something that
felt right for me and my family.
Finally, I realized I had to create it,"
she said.
Unaffilated with any Jewish move-
ment, Jewbilation's philosophy includes
the practice of traditions of Judaism in
an environment that offers a willing-
ness to incorporate and share the
teachings of other faith traditions and
spiritual practices. Rev. Zinn says the
congregation "allows me to express my
Jewish cultural, religious and intellec-
tual background and interests, my
Jewish persona, without having to be

limited by it."
In August 2002, Rev. Zinn was
ordained as an interfaith minister by
the New York-based All-Faiths
Seminary International under the tute-
lage of the institute's founder and pres-
ident, Rabbi Joseph H. Gelberman, a
psychotherapist and graduate of
Yeshiva University in New York. She
hopes Rabbi Gelberman's aphorism,
"Never instead of, always in addition
to," is the saying Jewbilation embodies.
She is currently enrolled in the
Modern Rabbi Program of the
Rabbinical Seminary International in
New York, a program of individualized
training in divine wisdom and spiritual

guidance. According to the Rabbinical
Seminary Web site, the modern rabbi
is distinguished from a traditional
rabbi in his/her emphasis on spiritual
guidance and personal and practical
ministry rather than Jewish law.

New Beginnings

Jewbilation's first service was held in
March 2001, just weeks after Rev.
Zinn became an adult bat mitzvah at
Beth Israel Congregation in Ann
Arbor.
"To me, that first service was a gift
to myself and the community for hav-

NEW PATHWAY on page 62

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