Conservative Judaism’s new narrative on Jewish intermarriage


When I was newly pregnant in 2001, my partner of another faith and I went “shul shopping,” visiting multiple Jewish congregations to find our spiritual home and community. We arrived at the Shabbat service at a Conservative synagogue and sat down. An usher approached and asked my spouse, “Are you Jewish?” The usher held a kippah and tallit in their hands, ready to hand them over if they answered “yes.” The intention was a good one, however the impact was that we felt alienated and did not join that synagogue. Identity is personal and being asked about one’s religion questions one’s right to be in a Jewish space.

The Conservative movement has evolved in its thinking about intermarriage since my family, and undoubtedly many others, had that personal experience. The “continuity crisis” narrative that dominated communal discourse for decades was based on assumptions that people who intermarry cease to identify as Jewish, be involved in the community, or raise Jewish children. This linear thinking equated intermarriage with extinction, labeled it a “threat” to Jewish continuity, and held communal consciousness in a vise grip until quite recently.

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