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11-Jul-2015 21:43

(RNS) Whether Jews should only date and marry other Jews is not a new question, but it’s one that has come into stark relief in recent weeks.

In two separate instances in December, groups within Conservative Judaism — the second-largest movement of American Jews — appeared to challenge some of their own rules that discourage interfaith dating and matrimony: Unlike rabbis in Reform Judaism, the largest American stream of Judaism, Conservative rabbis may not preside at interfaith marriages.

David Benkof, former international USY president , warned in The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday (Jan.

6) that the Conservative teens were taking their cues from their elders: “On issues relating to endogamy (marrying within the community,) the adult leaders of Conservative Judaism don’t always seem to know what they want — and when they do, what they want is not always ‘good for the Jews.'” To Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Conservative movement stands at the same crossroads where the Reform stood about a generation ago.

Schonfeld notes that Gardenswartz and members of his congregation quickly deemed his intermarriage proposal unworkable.

And she says that while the teen leaders of United Synagogue Youth changed the language they use to describe “healthy Jewish dating,” they did not alter their policy.

Conservative Judaism has stood fast on this, even as it has embraced female rabbis and same-sex weddings and welcomed the non-Jewish spouses of congregants into its synagogues.

“This is about our children and our grandchildren, and making sure that in this glorious open society, that when our children fall in love — with whomever they fall in love — they know they can always come back to their spiritual home,” he said.

In a religion whose adherents number fewer than 15 million worldwide, which lost 6 million souls during the Holocaust, and whose children feel increasingly free to choose whether or not they will produce a next generation of committed Jews, any changes regarding dating and marriage can be fraught with anxiety and emotion.She and other leaders of the movement reject the idea that the recent events undermined this tenet of Conservative Judaism, which stands between the more progressive Reform and more traditional Orthodox movements in its interpretation of Jewish law.

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