ATLANTA, Ga (Aug. 2)
An opposition group has been organized within the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform rabbinate, by members protesting a CCAR 1973 convention resolution opposing participation by CCAR members in mixed marriages, according to Rabbi David M. Eichhorn, chairman of the new group. Concerned Members of the Conference.
Rabbi Eichhorn said the Concerned Members were determined “to resist every attempt to restrict the spiritual freedom of American liberal Jews.” He said a letter had been sent to all CCAR members asking for support. Delegates to the 84th CCAR convention in Atlanta voted 321-196 on June 19 for opposition to officiating in mixed marriages but also approved an amendment upholding the CCAR’s long-standing position that each CCAR member had the right to act in such matters in accordance with his interpretation of Jewish tradition.
The opposition group’s letter sent to all members noted that a survey had shown that at least 40 percent of CCAR members officiated at mixed marriages and that “a considerable number” who did not officiate at such marriages recently signed a statement calling on the CCAR “to refrain from curtailing the right of every member of the CCAR to decide this matter for himself.” Accordingly, the letter asserted, “it is very likely that the vote at the Atlanta convention was not an accurate reflection of the real sentiment of the entire Conference membership.”
AUTONOMY OF REFORM RABBIS IN DANGER
The letter added that on the day after the vote, “a large number of conferees, perturbed about the possible adverse effect that this blow to the traditional religious autonomy of the Reform rabbi may have on the future of the Conference,” met in Atlanta and decided to organize themselves into a group to be known as Concerned Members of the Conference. Membership in the group will be open only to members of the CCAR.
A five-member administrative committee prepared a statement which declared that the CCAR had departed from its function “only as a deliberative body” and had now started “to legislate in the realm of rabbinic religious practice.” The statement called the June 19 vote “not responsive to the realities of contemporary Jewish life and the problems of our young people.”
The statement also said, “our rabbinic task is to strengthen Jewish identity to make modern Judaism sufficiently flexible and meaningful to earn the allegiance and to enrich the life of every Jew.” and that, in maintaining that position; members of the opposition group felt they would have “the support of the majority of liberal American Jewish laymen who, like ourselves, are deeply concerned about the future of their children and the survival of our people and our faith.”
The statement said that “to accomplish our determination to maintain the spiritual freedom of both the American Reform rabbi and American Reform Judaism,” the new group would prepare and distribute literature on the Issue, organize a speaker’s bureau and convene seminars to study in depth the problems of mixed marriage and other matters, including “the issue of authoritarianism in Judaism.”
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