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

Ending the Palestinian “Internationalization” Strategy

March 24 2017

Since Barack Obama (and Benjamin Netanyahu) assumed office in 2009, the Palestinian Authority has refused to negotiate with Israel, demanded the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders with its capital in east Jerusalem, and declined to agree to any concessions in return. To this end it has pursued a strategy of “internationalizing” the conflict by seeking recognition from international bodies and hoping that some sort of consortium of states will impose a solution to its liking on Israel. But with a new president in the White House, and a Middle East in disarray, this strategy seems less promising. Amos Yadlin and Kobi Michael explain why and how Israel and the U.S. can bring an end to it:

The Palestinian internationalization strategy was bolstered by a public-relations effort to [disseminate] the Palestinian narrative of the reasons for the conflict and the “just way of solving it,” and to saddle Israel with responsibility for the political deadlock. This was joined by general efforts to delegitimize Israel. This strategy, which focuses on a persistent, systematic effort to blacken Israel in international institutions, undermine its legitimacy, and deny the historic national connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, has scored several notable achievements in recent years. . . . One of the prominent achievements by the Palestinian national movement was the 2012 UN General Assembly resolution defining Palestine as a “non-member observer state.” . . . [T]he Palestinians [also] succeeded in entrenching within the U.S. administration the belief that Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank was the main obstacle to an agreement. . . .

Making it unmistakably clear to the Palestinians that they must return to the negotiating process and to mutual give-and-take, and also accept transitional and interim arrangements as preferable alternatives to the status quo, will engender greater potential for progress than during the Obama administration. As an initial sign to the Palestinians that the rules of the game have changed, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is in order. An American retreat from that pledge . . . [in response to] the Palestinian threats aimed at preventing this measure will weaken the American stature and become an incentive for the Palestinians to adhere to a strategy of bypassing Israel and evading direct negotiations. . . .

It is [also] important that the United States clarify that if the Palestinians prefer to continue their effort to isolate Israel in the international theater, instead of returning to direct negotiations, . . . [Washington] will back independent measures by Israel for determining its border in accordance with Israel’s strategic interests, while preserving the possibility of the future implementation of a negotiated two nation-state solution.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Peace Process, US-Israel relations