Over the past three weeks, the issue of intermarriage has reverberated in the pages of the Standard. One writer went so far as to define an open partial door as one available only to couples “who adopt an exclusive Jewish identity.”
That’s not an open door. It’s a barred gate with a sign that says to both partners “Stay Out.” The only result of that policy will be the loss of one Jewish soul, and the subsequent loss of future generations.
From our earliest Beresheit history, through Torah injunctions regarding the ger (the stranger), to the biblical story of Ruth, we cannot escape the conclusion that Judaism was a welcoming and inclusive religion at its outset. Now, 3000 years later, in a post-Shoah era of assimilation and population decline, it is time for the Jewish people to be welcoming again.
Thankfully, outreach initiatives are blossoming in many parts of the Jewish world. Conservative synagogues of all persuasions are increasingly engaged in keruv, literally “drawing in.” They have been sparked by the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, which started pushing an inclusive approach to interfaith families over 15 years ago.
To anyone who believes that welcoming will only water down the purity of Am Yisrael, I challenge you to study the history of Ashkenazic populations. Unless you are Sephardi, the chances are astoundingly high that intermarriage existed in your own family in the past.
Very few of us have an exclusive Jewish identity. To ask that of interfaith couples who express an interest in our synagogues is to sound the death knell of these institutions. Without them, it is hard to see how the silent Shoah of assimilation can be reversed. It won’t happen on the golf course, in the gym, or at the deli counter.
Let’s support our synagogues and make them welcoming to all who seek Jewish identity.