Why Conservative Rabbis Should Say “No” to Officiating at Intermarriages

March 17 2017

Performing a marriage between a Jew and a Gentile can result in a rabbi’s expulsion from the Conservative movement’s rabbinic organization, but the denomination’s clergy are becoming increasingly unsatisfied with this policy. Proponents of a more accepting position toward intermarriage can now cite a study suggesting that interfaith couples married by a rabbi are more likely to attend synagogue or observe Jewish rituals than are those married by some other officiant. Elliot Cosgrove responds:

First, the study does not account for pre-existing differences among the couples studied. . . . Second, and at risk of stating the obvious, Conservative rabbis should not jump to officiate intermarriages because doing so is against Jewish law. Of course, Jewish law can, and oftentimes should, change. I do not begrudge a young Jew for falling in love with a non-Jew. But just because a rabbi understands it does not mean he or she must be expected to bless it. Just as every individual has every right to choose his or her spouse, Jewish law has the right to limit what it can and cannot accommodate. Not every choice Jews make deserves to be validated by Jewish law.

Third, and perhaps most substantively, I don’t think Conservative rabbis should rush too quickly to perform intermarriages for the simple reason that as a parent, as a rabbi, and as a shaper of Jewish community and identity, I unapologetically want young Jews to marry other Jews. Rabbinic officiation at intermarriages signals an implicit and explicit leveling of the field, sending the message that all choices are equal, a message that I do not think wise given the undisputed place in-marriage has as the single most important determinant in ensuring Jewish continuity.

Read more at Jewish Week

More about: American Jewry, Conservative Judaism, Intermarriage, Judaism

Winning Islam’s War of Ideas, Saudi-Style

March 19 2018

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. policymakers have understood the need to confront jihadism not only militarily but also ideologically; yet, writes John Hannah, they have had little success. Now Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’ reformist crown prince, appears willing and able to take up the fight, and Hannah urges Washington to support his efforts:

By an order of magnitude, al-Qaeda in 2018 enjoys a larger presence in more countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia than it did the day the Twin Towers were felled. . . . What’s consistently been missing from America’s strategy have been powerful partners in the Muslim world who can reliably be counted on to speak out authoritatively on matters of Islamic theology in ways that the United States simply cannot. That’s where Saudi Arabia comes in. It’s the birthplace of Islam and host to the faith’s two holiest mosques. Combined with abundant oil wealth, these assets bestow on the Saudis a measure of soft-power influence unrivaled in the Muslim world. . . .

For months, the crown prince and his closest advisers have relentlessly hammered the theme that Saudi Arabia’s modernization requires an embrace of “moderate Islam.” He’s slammed the extremist ideology that the kingdom did so much to empower after the Iranian revolution and acknowledges that “the problem spread all over the world.” . . . At home, the powers of the kingdom’s notorious religious police have been scaled back. Prominent hardline clerics have been jailed. On the all-important issue of female empowerment, the pace of change has been breathtaking. . . .

Now the U.S. imperative should be pressing Mohammed bin Salman to take his campaign for moderate Islam on the road. . . . There should be multiple elements to such an effort, but some immediate tasks come to mind. First, school textbooks. The Saudis promised to eliminate the hate-filled passages a decade ago. Progress has slowly been made, but the job’s still not done. Mohammed bin Salman should order it finished—this year. Behind the scenes, U.S. experts should provide verification.

Second, working with trusted partners in indigenous communities known for their religious moderation, the Saudis should conduct a thorough audit of the global network of mosques, schools, and charitable organizations that they’ve backed with an eye toward weeding out radical staff and content. Third, [they should] initiate a worldwide buyback of Saudi-distributed mistranslations of the Quran and other religious materials notorious for propagating extremist narratives.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Moderate Islam, Politics & Current Affairs, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, War on Terror