A Statement from Rabbi Robert Levine
When you join Rodeph Sholom you are covenanting with us. It is the way we commit to each other. In our midst we have many different family configurations and want each to feel appreciated and involved. We have worked hard to engage members of color, those from LGBTQ families, families with Special Needs, families with one parent who was not born Jewish but still feels part of the Jewish family. We have worked hard to make all of us feel at home.
To those of you who were not born Jewish let me say that I’m very much aware that in many cases you have had to give up a lot, that you may have family who are not comfortable with your desire to be part of the Jewish community. Many of you have told me that often, in fact, the partner who was not born a Jew has been the driving force guaranteeing Jewish life in your family or at least an equal partner in that sacred endeavor. I appreciate your struggle and your decision more than you know. As a result we have clearly stated that even if you are not Jewish you are a full member of our congregation, welcome on our bimah to
recite blessings, to be active in our committee structure and when the time comes, to be buried in our Jewish cemetery.
Yet, heretofore, neither I nor our other clergy have officiated at interfaith marriages. In my mind this has never been a judgment on anyone’s relationship or depth of love. Looking at the statistics, which show that too many people who intermarry disappear from Jewish life, I did not want to give any endorsement that would lead to a greater diminishing of our numbers or strength. For every parent who says to their kids, “I want you to date and ultimately marry a Jew,” I did not want your child to be able to retort, “Stop bothering me, even the rabbi doesn’t care who I marry,” which in fact is not true.
So I have found and still find it hard to take a categorical position. However, after study and reflection I want to say that for you who have joined Rodeph Sholom, shown your commitment, proven how much a part of the community you are, you have raised Jewish children and then, if they fall in love with someone who is not Jewish, and they in turn commit exclusively to a Jewish family and agree to study with us, I and the clergy team will happily officiate at that marriage. Precisely because you have covenanted with us all these years, we will covenant with you and treat you with the love and respect we have in every other theatre of life. I want you to feel in every fiber of your being, “I really belong in the Rodeph Sholom community,” because in every way you really do.
We want you and your children and theirs to continue to be proud of the community and clergy you have invested in and really know we are inclusive, pluralistic and live the values we espouse.