NY Board of Rabbis Will Bar Membership to Rabbis Performing Mixed Marriages

The New York Board of Rabbis, representing Conservative. Orthodox and Reform rabbis, approved yesterday a resolution barring membership to rabbis who perform mixed marriages.

The resolution, adopted by a two-thirds majority of 166 rabbis attending, declared that NYBR membership was open only to “rabbis who neither officiate at mixed marriages nor make referrals to rabbis who officiate at mixed marriages.”

Rabbi William Berkowitz, NYBR president, who presided, called the decision “historic.”

Loss of membership does not affect the rabbi’s post as spiritual leader of his congregation or other duties he may perform as a rabbi.

Last February, a similar resolution was narrowly defeated but the rabbis approved a resolution which “condemned” rabbis who do perform such marriages. One of the reasons for opposition to the ban at that NYBR meeting was the argument that the issue was to be considered at the 84th annual convention in June of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the organization of the Reform rabbinate, many of whose members wanted the CCAR to ban such officiating, and that an NYBR ban might prejudice CCAR convention action.

The CCAR convention voted on the issue on June 19 a majority of the Reform rabbis adopted a resolution which strongly disapproved of such officiating by members. But an amendment also was approved upholding the CCAR’s standing position that each member had the right to act in such matters in accordance with his interpretation of Jewish tradition. Failure of the Reform convention to vote a flat prohibition brought the NYRB ban yesterday.

Rabbi Joseph B. Glaser, CCAR executive vice-president, who voted against the ban, said he would contest its legality. He said 36 votes were cast before the end of the two-hour debate by rabbis who had to leave the meeting. He said that the ban would “tear asunder the whole fabric of Jewish religious cooperation as we have known it.”

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