Intermarriage is a problem

Intermarriage is a problem

There are issues in Eric Weis’ letter that require a response (“Intermarriage and welcoming,” August 30).

First of all, in my letter (“Rethinking intermarriage again,” August 16) I never said it was my intention or any one else’s to keep anyone away from my synagogue. The problem is that the type of welcoming or inclusion that Mr. Weis is talking about would bring in couples where the non-Jewish spouse is practicing another religion. It is true that few Jews live an exclusive Jewish lifestyle. But is also true that few identifying Jews celebrate Christmas or Easter. If you bring in couples who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukah or Easter and Passover, you will radically change Jewish identity in the non-Orthodox Jewish communities over several generations.

Secondly, a policy of unqualified welcoming or inclusion discourages the type of conversation that should occur either before marriage or before the birth of the first child; namely, to which religious community do you want to commit; Jewish or Christian. The failure to do so bars any real commitment to either faith and may create a religious fault line in the marriage. In addition, whatever commitment the non-Jewish spouse may have to his or her faith is ignored.

Thirdly, it ignores what is to be done with the children of such a relationship. Do you raise them as belonging to both religious faiths or do you raise one as Jewish and one as Christian? Such ideas do not lead to any strong commitment, and can only lead to confusion. In addition, what happens when the synagogue is Conservative and the Jewish partner is the father? Does the Conservative movement adopt patrilineal descent or pro-forma conversion for those children?

Mr. Weis’s ideas sound good on paper. They may even bring people to synagogues who adopt such policies. It also may provide some comfort to the parents of the Jewish partner of the intermarriage, who may believe their child has not abandoned his or her Jewish heritage. But in the long term, these ideas are not very sound.