Ruling Sought on Whether Non-jewish Women in Mixed Marriages Can Become Members of Conservative Sist

The Women’s League for Conservative Judaism has called upon the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Law and Standards to determine whether the non-Jewish woman in a mixed marriage can become a Sisterhood member.

At present, the Rabbinical Assembly’s Law Committee has ruled that the 1,200 member Conservative rabbis should not accept mixed marriage couples into their congregations. However, there is no sanction process and there are some Conservative rabbis who have permitted mixed couples to become synagogue members.

At the recent biennial meeting of the Women’s League, a resolution was adopted stating: “We recognize with concern the growing rate of mixed marriages and the resulting situations that continue to arise across the country in our affiliated Sisterhoods.” The resolution called on the Rabbinical Assembly “to explore all facets of the question and establish standards and guidelines for the synagogue and its affiliated organizations.”

The resolution added: “We recognize the needs of non-Jewish women, married to Jewish men, whether affiliated or unaffiliated with a synagogue, who have expressed the desire to pursue Jewish aims and ideals. We wish to encourage their participation in Jewish community life.” The Women’s League called for the development of an educational and cultural outreach program to the non-Jewish woman partner in a mixed marriage.

ISSUE MUST BE DEALT WITH

Rabbi Kassel Abelson, Rabbinical Assembly president, told the convention that the entire question of mixed marriages must be dealt with and that programs should be established in each congregation to “deal with these questions and bring the family closer to Judaism and closer to the synagogue, so that children of all mixed marriages will be raised as Jews.”

Where interest develops, he added, “because the family is warmly welcomed into the congregation and their problems sympathetically dealt with, we may discover that the non-Jewish souse will, at some point, opt to study about Judaism and even convert to Judaism.” Abelson noted that many Conservative congregations are confronted with such questions as: should the children of a mixed marriage be permitted to study in religious schools, allowed to be Bar or Bat Mitzvah, or even to get married in the congregation? “There is scarcely a family in our congregations that has not been touched by this problem in the person of a child marrying outside of the faith,” he added.

Phyllis Haas, the past national vice president of the Women’s League, agreed that dealing with non-Jewish spouses in a mixed marriage becomes a sensitive problem, which has been on the increase in Conservative congregations over the past number of years. She felt that only halachically converted couples should be accepted as members of congregations.

But Margery Saulson, the Women’s League’s Michigan branch president, who agreed that the question of non-Jewish spouses must be dealt with, said: “We must embrace her and encourage her in the study of Judaism. If we make the non-Jewish female partner welcome, we can undoubtedly elicit a voluntary conversion, since she will recognize the wholesome quality of religious Judaism and the enrichment that such practices bring to the entire Jewish family.”

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