US/World News

Conservative seminary: Ban clergy from performing interfaith marriages

(JTA) – The Jewish Theological Seminary, which trains rabbis for the Conservative movement, said it is committed to keeping its ban on clergy from performing interfaith wedding ceremonies. The statement issued Wednesday, June 21 comes in response to the announcement last week by two rabbis who belong to the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, that they would begin officiating at such ceremonies. “We understand the arguments made for our clergy to officiate at interfaith weddings, knowing that they come from a place of genuine concern for bringing near individuals and families who are or might be estranged from the community and tradition we love,” the statement said. “However, we believe – and the data confirm – that by far the most effective path toward building a Jewish future is to strengthen Jewish identity, beginning with the Jewish family.”

Last week, Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon of the popular nondenominational synagogue B’nai Jeshurun in New York City announced in a video shared at the synagogue’s annual meeting, “We are embracing a significant change in how we approach the future of Jewish life at BJ.” Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie of the influential New York congregation Lab/Shul also said this month that he expects his congregation to resign from the Rabbinical Assembly in favor of a policy he wrote that “may enable more rabbis to welcome more people into our community with open arms.”

The JTS statement said that for the seminary and its partners in the Conservative movement, “the wedding ceremony is not only a celebration of a couple, but a commitment to the Jewish covenant. Its opening blessing thanks God for infusing our lives with holiness through the mitzvot, and its closing lines connect this marriage to the rebirth of the Jewish people in Jerusalem. Such statements can be said truly only if both partners identify as Jews. For those who are or wish to be members of our communities and of our families, the door is open to study and commit to join our ancient faith. We respect the choice of those who prefer not to become Jewish, understanding that their religious identity is no less significant than is our own.”

CAP: The Jewish Theological Seminary building in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York. (Wikimedia Commons)

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