• Gabbai

Korach – Dealing with Opposition

On occasion there are events that are game changing for the Jewish people. For the Conservative movement this happens every couple of decades. Those following Jewish tabloids and media outlets are no doubt aware of the debates that are currently raging within the Conservative movement over the performance of intermarriage. The official policy of the movement is currently not to allow its clergy to officiate at such marriages. Long ago the Reform movement began officiating at such marriages, and now there is strong pressure from the Conservative constituency as well as many of its clergy to follow suit. A cousin of Israel’s Chief Rabbi Lau leads a large Conservative congregation in New York, and he recently announced that he will begin performing marriages between Jews and non-Jews. The discourse is happening very publicly, with Conservative clergy writing opinion pieces in Jewish media outlets, expressing opinions about the great advantages this will bring to the Jewish nation.

Many have pointed out that a clergy member’s willingness or unwillingness to officiate at such a marriage will not alter the couple’s decision to marry. I agree with this assertion. I don’t believe the rabbi of a typical modern day Jew holds any sway on his or her major life decisions, be it a career choice or decision about a marriage partner. A rabbi has even less influence than a parent has, and parents today wield very little influence over their children’s choices once they hit teenage years. So what is the argument? Rather than push them away altogether, and risk losing a precious Jew from affiliation, clergy should embrace their choice and work with them, encouraging both to learn more about the Jewish heritage and raise their future children as Jews.

It is a compelling argument, and it is as old as the Conservative movement itself. Every compromise made by the Conservative movement over the years invoked the same rationale. The Conservative movement was born to try and stem the tide of Jews defecting from affiliation, or turning to Reform Judaism as a step before defecting entirely. In its infancy the Conservative movement looked very similar to traditional Judaism. But one after the next, layers of tradition