Rabbi candidates standing for election to the US Rabbinical Assembly—the world’s foremost association of Conservative rabbis in America, Canada, Israel, Latin America, Europe, Australia, and Africa—seek to “strengthen” the ban on marriage between Jews and non-Jews which is a “severe breach of Jewish law,” the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper has announced.
According to the Forward article, titled “Rabbis Who Favor Ban On Intermarriage Challenge Conservative Leaders,” a group of rabbis who strongly support the ban on intermarriage have started a coordinated campaign to ensure that only their supporters are elected to the leadership of the Rabbinical Assembly (RA).
According to the report, the Rabbinical Assembly is “the top authority on religious law within the movement,” and it “sets professional standards for its roughly 1,600 member rabbis and negotiates their contracts.”
Elections are held every year when members vote in a new executive council and board of officers, “though there are almost never any other candidates on the ballot besides the ones nominated by the outgoing board.”
This year, however, things are different, as the rabbis want to ensure that there is no “weakening” of the current ban, and have started a write-in campaign to take over the organization from the grassroots up.
The Forward added that this campaign is being run “under the banner of upholding the ban,” and that “repealing it altogether is unlikely, but the candidates want to make sure that it isn’t weakened, either.”
The Forward then goes on to explain why they don’t want non-Jews marrying Jews.
“The ban, they feel, is an existential question,” the Forward said, quoting one of the challengers, Rabbi Felipe Goodman, as saying “It’s an issue of Jewish law, but it’s also an issue of whether we’re going to be here tomorrow or not.
“If we want to remain a people, this is something we have to uphold,” Goodman told the Forward, adding that “We need to uphold the standards of Conservative rabbis not officiating interfaith weddings. The future of our movement very much depends on this.”
The Jewish newspaper continued:
“Goodman, from a prominent Las Vegas synagogue, along with Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel of Las Vegas and Rabbi Daniel Horwitz of Houston, believe strongly that their movement should not sanction intermarriage by allowing rabbis to officiate weddings between Jews and non-Jews, according to several rabbis interviewed for this article.”
“Orthodox Jews by and large consider intermarriage to be a severe breach of Jewish law,” and in “October of last year, the RA reaffirmed its ban on rabbis officiating at intermarriages. But in January, the RA’s leadership began a process — recommended by an elite commission that was never formally disclosed to the rank and file — that could lead to rabbis being allowed to attend intermarriages as guests.
“That move by the commission put many rabbis on edge, as intermarriage is strictly forbidden by Jewish law.
“They worry that further inquiry into the question by the RA will lead to a broader endorsement of intermarriage — leading to what they perceive as a dilution of the movement’s commitment to Jewish law and an erasure of one of the markers that separates it from Reform Judaism.”
According to the member of the Committee for Jewish Laws and Standards, however, overturning the ban would require a four-fifths majority vote by the committee’s members, followed by a simple majority vote of affirmation by the entire Assembly.