Rabbis Divided on Recognition of Children of Mixed Marriages
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Rabbis Divided on Recognition of Children of Mixed Marriages

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The Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation has completed a survey of 137 Reform and Conservative rabbis which indicates that no consistent policy is followed–and considerable confusion exists–in determining the religious status of children of Jewish mixed marriages in which the mother is non-Jewish.

The survey, which is the subject of an article in the current issue of the “Reconstructionist”, a bi-weekly published by the Foundation, was prompted by recent disclosures that from 12 to 20 percent of Jews in different parts of the United States engaged in mixed marriages and that in about 70 percent of such cases, the male marriage partner is the Jew. According to traditional Jewish law, the children of these marriages are not considered Jewish. They are usually informed of that fact at the time of their Bar Mitzvah or confirmation and “such revelations can have tragic and emotionally disturbing consequences,” the Reconstructionist said.

According to its survey, prepared by Benjamin William Melman, a New York attorney, a majority of the Conservative rabbis responding insisted that these children undergo conversion ceremonies, including circumcision or symbolic blood-letting and ritual immersion. But a third of the Conservative rabbis made no such demand and insisted only that the children be given a Jewish education and that the parents be affiliated with a synagogue. The overwhelming percentage of Reform rabbis agreed with the latter procedure and required that the children be educated in a religious school and undergo a Bar Mitzvah or confirmation ceremony.

The survey disclosed that a “significant number” of children of mixed marriages attended Jewish religious schools and that a majority of the mothers of these children had converted to Judaism before marriage.

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