Over the past two years, influential Conservative rabbis have begun flirting with performing intermarriages and with relaxing conversion standards, or at least wringing their hands at Judaism’s traditional endogamy norm and the distress it is causing interfaith families.
Given pervasive intermarriage — 58% of all American Jews marrying since 2000 wed gentiles — it may seem improbable that my colleagues in the Conservative rabbinate will resist the tide indefinitely. But I hope we do. Conservative Judaism would be strengthened if we continue to insist that the integrity of Jewish marriages demands that both partners commit to living as Jews.
I don’t insist on endogamy because of any reactionary instincts. I enthusiastically support liberal policies on homosexuality and gender equality, even though these reject traditional norms.
Also, I am not driven mainly by grim demographic data, although it really should sober up intermarriage advocates. No one should draw optimistic policy conclusions without reckoning with the finding in 2013 by the Pew Research Center that only 20% of intermarried parents raise their children as Jewish by religion, while nearly twice that many, 37%, do not raise their children as Jewish in any way whatsoever. By contrast, 96% of in-married parents raise their children as Jewish by religion.