In or out doesn’t work any more

Two Conservative rabbis ponder intermarriage as something other than a binary problem


Black or white.

Yes or no.

In or out.

Right or wrong.

That’s binary thinking. It’s comfortable, it’s often convenient, it sometimes works.

But it doesn’t work as well as it used to.

It’s the way the Jewish world traditionally has approached intermarriage. It’s bad. If you do it, you’re out.

The problem — or, that is, one problem — is that we no longer have the luxury of that approach. Demographics tell us as much. According to the 2013 Pew study, as many as 70 percent of liberal Jews have intermarried since 2000.

What to do? How to retain Jewish values — and for that matter to retain Jews — but be open to the outside world?

Rabbis Adina Lewittes of Closter and her friend Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie do not pretend to have the answers, but they say, in a joint op-eddistributed by JTA, that they can no longer pretend that there is no problem.

Both are innovators — Rabbi Lewittes has created Sha’ar Communitieshere in northern New Jersey, and Rabbi Lau-Lavie has founded both the Manhattan-based Lab/Shul and Storahtelling.

Both grew up in Orthodox homes, with relatives prominent in the Orthodox world, and both chose to be ordained by the Conservative movement, and to join the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, although both head nondenominational — perhaps postdenominational — communities.

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