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

How Israel Should Approach Syria in the Wake of the U.S. Airstrikes

April 27 2017

Nearly three weeks after a U.S. attack on a Syrian airbase, it remains unclear if Washington will start working actively against the Assad regime or simply enforce red lines. Ilan Goldenberg argues that in either case Israel should stick to the strategy it has been pursuing all along—one that will only be helped by greater American involvement:

The good news is that much of the area of southern Syria is now controlled by a group of moderate Sunni forces known as the Southern Front. This group is an alliance of smaller local militias that has been supported by the United States and Jordan with some quiet support from Israel. As a result, southern Syria has become one of the most stable areas in the country, resulting in a default buffer zone that protects both Israel and Jordan. The key for Israel will be to ensure that in any final resolution of the Syrian conflict or change in Trump administration policy, the Southern Front remains in place. . . .

[Another] central objective for Israel will be to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons in Syria that could get into the hands of extremists who may launch attacks on Israeli civilians. At the start of the Syria conflict this was the foremost Israeli priority. . . . The priority Israel places on this issue also explains why the Israeli minister of defense, Avigdor Liberman, came out so strongly in support of the military strikes against the Assad regime, drawing a sharp rebuke from Vladimir Putin. In most instances, Israel has tried to avoid antagonizing Russia or getting in the middle of U.S-Russian competition, but on this particular matter it is highly invested in the American position.

Finally, Israel . . . has a broader overarching objective of trying to limit Iranian influence in Syria. . . . Iranian-supported militias and operatives of the Qods Force [Iran’s elite expeditionary troops] are deeply enmeshed inside the Syrian regime at this point, and Israel likely recognizes that. Iran will continue to have influence in Syria and be able to use its allies in Damascus to supply and strengthen Hizballah. All Israel can do is push for American policies that limit Tehran’s influence in Syria to the largest extent possible, while recognizing the reality of the situation on the ground.

Read more at Matzav

More about: Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy