Monday, March 24, 2008

Good News For The Jews

Finally some common sense out of a major Jewish denomination.

The Reform movement, at least in the U.S., has decided to approve inter-marriages.

They have decided to view this inevitable phenomenon of diaspora Jewish life, not as a threat, but as an opportunity.

I read about this in Haaretz , where the sub-headline called it "The most daring experiment in the history of the Jews." While I am not sure it ranks that high, it is certainly the most significant - and positive - development in organized Jewish life in the past several decades.

This is really a welcome development. As the article points out:

"If they raise Jewish kids, it's a Jewish family. It's not the parents who
are important, but rather their choice regarding the next generation."

Two Boston-based studies radiate cautious optimism regarding the possibility
of bringing mixed families into the Jewish community. A more general study of
religion in the United States, conducted by the Pew Research Center, also has
contributed to the sense that mixed marriages are more an opportunity than an
obstacle to the American Jewish community.

The study, which identified religious mobility as an integral part of American life, found that more than 40 percent of Americans change their religious affiliation over the course of their life. When disregarding people who shift between different denominations of Protestantism, this figure remains at 30 percent.

... conclusion: A welcoming, vibrant congregation will attract mixed families. This means that the community's overall message must also change: from "It is important to marry a Jew," to "It is important to raise Jewish children." After all, the first
message has long been doomed to failure. About half of young Jews marry outside
the community.

Not only may this approach improve the demographics of Diaspora Jews, it is both more sensible (and menschlekeit) and more consistent with "living in two civilizations" - which is what Reconstructionist Judaism - the denomination I am affiliated with - has long advocated.

Now, if only Canadian branch of Reform Judaism would adopt this approach!


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