In response to extensive coverage regarding Amichai Lau-Lavie’s intermarriage proposal (“Maverick Rabbi Breaks Ranks Over Intermarriage,” June 16), I would like to share my own personal journey from “resident alien/ger toshav” to convert. In my view, the open, hybrid, fluid nature of the Jewish community south of Canal Street has served as a lab for several years. It has welcomed many “resident aliens” and the community has grown, flourished and, in my view, reinvented itself.
As such, I obviously support Rabbi Lau-Lavie’s proposal.
My own story — I married a first-generation Sephardic Jew 21 years ago. At the time, I did not convert.
We have raised three children in the Jewish faith, celebrating a brit and three b’nai mitzvah. We celebrated the High Holidays, attended Shabbat services, studied the core Jewish values, visited Israel several times and even mastered five versions of Sephardic charoset.
In addition, I believe that I played some small role in nurturing the growing Jewish community south of Canal post 9/11. We were one of a handful of families making a founding contribution to establish Tribeca Hebrew, an arts-based Hebrew school. I served on the board until we folded it into the Jewish Community Project (JCP), where I served on the board and executive committee. We are a founding family of both Lab/Shul and Tamid, where we remain active participants and supporters. We also have been members of Temple Emanu-El since 1995. Our children have volunteered in the temple soup kitchen since toddlerhood.
After this level of support and engagement, I converted last month, with Rabbi Lau-Lavie serving on my beit din. After all these years, I fully identified as a Jew. In the end, my journey was about identity.
As Amichai launches his experiment or clinical trial, I might suggest that a lab has been running for many years downtown. Have we indeed shown that keeping intermarried couples involved plays a role in Jewish reinvention? I think that the signs are very promising. Count me in for supporting the continued exploration and experiment.