A few weeks back, the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly made headlines for officially disaffiliating retired Philadelphia-area Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom for presiding over an interfaith marriage and indicating that, should the opportunity arise, he had every intention to do so in the future.
The affair reignited the long-simmering debate in the Jewish community as to how best to handle the growing phenomenon of intermarriage in which now more than half of the non-Orthodox part of the community marries outside the faith. There are those like Rosenbloom, as well as the entirety of today’s Reform movement, who provide official sanction of interfaith weddings, provided — depending on the situation — that the couples commit themselves to raise their children as Jewish or to live Jewish lives. The thinking is that intermarriage is here to stay and the best response a community can offer is to figure out how to embrace such couples instead of pushing them away. Without getting into the merits or shortcomings of such a philosophy, it’s worth noting that an entire industry of Jewish groups has sprung up to battle intermarriage at its source, whether the groups know it or not. By providing opportunities for young, single Jews to meet other young, single Jews, such programs and mixers might well be doing far more for the Jewish future than the war over who can officiate at a chuppah.
Take the case of the young professionals you’ll read about in this week’s JT. Whether it’s at a Charm City Tribe Chanukah BrewHaHa at Union Craft Brewing arranged by Rabbi Jessy Gross or at a monthly themed young professional Shabbat at the Downtown Chabad run by Rabbi Levi and Chani Druk, they’re coming out for a fun and engaging Jewish experience that likely bears little resemblance to the Jewish social scene of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.
“I moved to Little Italy, and the first week here, my roommates hadn’t moved in yet, and I didn’t know anyone,” says Atlanta-born Perrin Shapiro, 24, a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison. “My mom sent me a link to the [Downtown] Chabad, which was literally the next block over, and that’s where I met [my boyfriend].”
Whether or not Shapiro had gone with the intention of meeting her beshert is immaterial. The fact is, if we want to have a Jewish future, we as a community need to provide a Jewish present. That’s as true as it is for those in our preschools as it is for those who have graduated college and are just beginning to make their marks on the world. Perhaps in time, the intermarriage debate will be a thing of the past.