Conservative Synagogues Crack Open Door to Intermarried Families –

I have a feeling this issue is a bigger deal to others than to me. The Jewish Daily Forward has a story on a Conservative synagogue outside Philadelphia offers full membership to intermarried families. Generally speaking, historically, only Jews were members, while non-Jews have not been members of synagogues. The Reform Movement has long counted non-Jews among their members. The Conservative Movement has seen shuls as Jewish religious institutions, for which a prerequisite to membership in one is membership in the other (as opposed to, say, a JCC, where professing belief in the God of Israel has little to do with one's ability to play tennis).

The Canadian Jewish News had a similar piece last week. They haven't put it online, but the upshot is the issue evolves similarly in Canada, but more conservatively. Adath Israel in Toronto, for instance, uniquely does not offer membership to intermarried families.

So are standards being loosened? Again, not a big deal. The key paragraph is here:

According to several leaders in the Conservative movement, mixed households were once categorized as single-parent families on synagogue rolls, which allowed them to pay less for membership. In an effort to make intermarried families feel more welcome — but also to fill synagogue coffers — synagogues began to do what Beth Hillel-Beth El did in June, changing the definition of household membership to include intermarried families as well as inmarried ones. But most of these synagogues allowed only one vote per household, effectively barring the non-Jew from making decisions that would affect the future of the synagogue.

Read more:

Shul membership is not a halachic category. It's about the madness in offering a discount for getting intermarried; that is, charging dues at an individual rate (less than a family rate) to a person because his or her spouse is not Jewish. It may be a big ideological statement, but it's really more of a bookkeeping statement. If the family is welcome to attend, whose name is on the list of membership seems not terribly significant to me. More significant is how integrated the couple is to Jewish life. Decades ago, here at Beth Jacob, the Jewish partner in an intermarriage was not allowed an aliyah to the Torah. Now that's changed, and is a much bigger statement than the membership list.

But that's only because I stubbornly think the Torah is a bigger deal than shul meetings. I know it may be an unpopular view.

I like the lack of judgement in the Forward's headline: crack open door? Crack open door? What door was closed? If a shul, as a matter of policy, respects an non-Jew's decision to be not Jewish, it's strange to think of it as closing a door. Sigh...

Conservative Synagogues Crack Open Door to Intermarried Families –


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