Objects to California Rabbis’ Anti-intermarriage Resolution
Menu JTA Search

Objects to California Rabbis’ Anti-intermarriage Resolution

Download PDF for this date

Jewish Daily Bulletin, Editor:

In your issue of Thursday, September 18th there appeared an article entitled, “California Rabbis Opposed to Intermarriage Unless Non-Jewish Party Accepts Judaism.”

I am a member of The Board of Rabbis of Northern California, the organization which passed this resolution of “unequivocal opposition to mixed marriages between Jew and Gentile where there is no declaration of willingness on the part of the non-Jew to embrace the Jewish faith.” A copy of the resolution was sent to me and I was invited to comment on it. I did so. I stated that the resolution did not meet with my approval and I urged the secretary of the Board not to publish it. I insisted, moreover, if the resolution were published, that my dissenting vote be recorded. That my request was ignored is apparent from the published statements and comments on the resolution which have appeared in a number of Jewish periodicals.

If you will grant me the courtesy of a few lines in your valuable little publication I shall try to make my position clear; My objections to the resolution are as follows: First. It seems to me to be narrow and intolerant. In this day and age when harmony and goodwill between all religious denominations are desired above all else, a resolution of this kind strikes a discordant note. Inferentially it raises the question of the superiority of one religion over others, which is to be deplored.


Second. A dogmatic resolution of this kind may often have the opposite effect of that which its framers hoped for. They maintain that the solemnization of mixed marriages tends “to sanction the disintegration of the Jewish people, to threaten the integrity of the Jewish home.” This is not necessarily true. There have been instances where the non-Jewish member of a mixed marriage was not converted to Judaism. Nevertheless the children of this union of Jew and non-Jew have been raised as Jews and Jewesses. The loyalty of the Jewish party of the mixed marriage has never been questioned. In such cases, and they are not rare, “the disintegration of the Jewish home and the integrity of the Jewish homes,” have not been threatened, whereas the refusal of a Rabbi to solemnize such a union, when assurance was given that the children would be brought up as Jews, would certainly have had the opposite effect. The contracting parties would have been driven to a civil magistrate, and, in all likelihood, lost to Judaism forever. The writer is acquainted with people who have been driven out of the synagogue and the circle of Jewish life by the misguided and misdirected zeal of conscientious Rabbis.


Third. It is not “secularizing the rabbinical calling” nor is it “converting it into a civil magistracy” to officiate at a mixed marriage. Rabbis who perform mixed marriages will resent the implications of this statement. As a matter of fact it is for this very reason: that they do not want to deny the contracting parties the benefit of a religious ceremony, that they perform the marriage despite the fact that the non-Jewish party has not been converted to Judaism. They prefer to do this rather than to send them to a justice of the peace, whose marriage ceremony is altogether secular in character and inadequate for religious-minded people.

Fourth. I question the wisdom of insisting that the non-Jewish party of a mixed marriage be converted to Judaism. It is not likely that the non-Jew with a good religious background will care to desert the religion of his fathers any more than the devoted Jew will care to give up his Judaism.

If there is a willingness on the part of the non-Jew to take upon himself the yoke of the Torah—well and good. Where such willingness is lacking it is useless to force the issue. In that case all that the Rabbi can demand is a promise that the children of a mixed marriage will be brought up as Jews. Such a promise is readily obtained when a Jew and a non-Jew appear before the Rabbi. Their desire to be married by a Rabbi is proof that the Jewish member of the union is to guide the religious destinies of the household.

Fifth (and last) In the great majority of cases the Jew and the non-Jew will be married whether the Rabbi performs the ceremony or not. Why antagonize them? What is to be gained by arousing in them feelings of hostility toward Judaism? Why deny them the comfort of a religious ceremony? Is such conduct in accord with the highest precepts of Jewish teachings? I do not think so.

Rabbi Norman M. Goldburg, Sacramento, California, Member Board of Rabbis of Northern California.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund