US/World News

Study: 40% of Conservative rabbis would perform intermarriages

NEW YORK (JTA) – A survey of 249 Conservative rabbis finds that almost half have defied the movement’s ban on attending interfaith weddings and that 40 percent would officiate at such weddings if the movement permitted them to do so. The survey, conducted by the New York-based Big Tent Judaism (formerly named the Jewish Outreach Institute) is believed to be the most comprehensive poll yet of Conservative clergy opinion on intermarriage. However, because the survey was conducted via email with a self-selected group of participants, some Conservative leaders are dismissing its findings. Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly – which has almost 1,700 members – told Religion News Service that the study is “not a very serious study” and that it is “unscientific” and “unrepresentative.”

Conservative rabbis are barred from officiating at marriages between Jews and non-Jews, and the movement adheres to the traditional matrilineal descent definition of who is a Jew. In a widely flouted policy, the movement bars intermarried Jews from holding leadership positions in synagogues or serving as teachers in their religious schools. “As an organization tracking the trends of intermarriage for nearly three decades, Big Tent Judaism (formerly Jewish Outreach Institute) anecdotally understood that changes in opinion – and even in practice – have already spread among Conservative rabbis,” the study states in its conclusion.

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