The Jewish Week of August 21st had a cover article on the possibility that the Reconstructionist
Rabbinical College might change or remove the requirement that ordinees not be married
to non-Jews. When I applied to Hebrew Union College, there was a notorious 'pink form' that applicants
were required to sign, promising not to marry or enter into a serious relationship with
Intermarriage has always been a point of contention in Judaism. Some movements are completely
against it, while Reform has not always been so sure. Some might say it is like being
against sunrise. You can protest all you want, but it is still going to happen.
If you gathered one hundred single committed Jews and asked them if it was important that
they marry Jews, most would say yes. A smaller number would end up marrying Jews. I know a
Jewish woman who grew up Orthodox, determined to only marry a Jew. She fell head over heels
in love with a Christian man, and they are now married. I know another woman who grew up extremely
committed to Judaism. In her mid thirties, never having had a serious boyfriend, she met
a very nice agnostic. When he proposed, she said yes.
Professor Stephen Cohen has said that if two Jews marry two non-Jews, and raise committed
Jewish families, that is good for the Jews. But what if a rabbi marries a non-Jew?
I think we want our rabbis to marry Jews for two reasons: first, we want them to model the
kind of Jewish household we think is best-- happily married to a Jewish spouse, preferably with
photogenic children. Second, we want them to be committed to Judaism, committed to the point
of wanting to marry a Jewish person.
Regarding the first reason, isn't that a bit of a fantasy? Rabbis struggle to marry, to have
children, and to maintain shalom bayit as much as anyone else. Besides, might not an intermarried
rabbi who has a committed Jewish household be a better role model for our many intermarried
Regarding the second reason, one would hope that years of rabbinic school and a decision
to commit one's life would be proof enough that Judaism is important. But it doesn't always. If
the rabbi was married to a non-Jew, might not a congregant think 'Didn't she think it was important
to marry a Jew?'
Before I thought of becoming a rabbi I dated non-Jewish women, sometimes quite seriously.
But the thought of not really having a fully Jewish home always gave me pause. The thought
of having my spouse not understand what I was going through on the High Holidays, not care, or
even not participate seemed very sad to me. Of course, she could have been Jewish and still not
interested in the High Holidays. But she could not have said "It has nothing to do with me."
Ultimately, even rabbis must marry who they must marry. Even people who use Jdate and
Frumster may end up marrying someone who isn't Jewish. Like many things, each rabbi should
be judged on a case by case basis. That pink sheet should have said "We here at HUC-JIR think
it is very important that a rabbi be married to someone Jewish, and we hope you do too. If it
seems there is a possibility that you may marry someone who is not Jewish, come and talk to us
about it, and we will mutually decide if you should become a rabbi anyway."