Regarding the address Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, gave to the biennial (“Being Against Intermarriage Is Like Being Against Gravity,” Editor’s column, Jan. 17): The most dangerous word for the religious project is “inevitability.”
Our tomorrows need not mirror our present. This is the essential message of both teshuva and tikkun olam. Human beings and communities can change.
Certainly, over the millennia we have fallen short in some of our attempts to change trenchant social patterns. But our identity as a people has been formed out of an unwillingness to resign ourselves to forces that appear as inescapable “as gravity.” To suggest otherwise, subverts the grandeur of everything worth protecting and continuing in the Jewish tradition.
Moreover, any approach that celebrates intermarriage absolves Jewish leaders and communities from seeking to improve upon the malaise in Jewish life that has contributed to this moment in Jewish history. Not to see intermarriage as representing some degree of failure for the American Jewish community is an abrogation of the responsibility of leadership to confront difficult truths in favor of embracing a dangerous form of complacency.
It is my hope that there are many within the Reform movement who can still give public voice to a desire that their children find partners who share a commitment to the Covenant of Abraham and Sarah. If they choose otherwise, I, like Rabbi Jacobs, will welcome them lovingly into our community, and I will be eager to teach both Jew and non-Jew alike of the Torah’s transformative message that nothing in life is inevitable. We must always work to make our communities more inspiring, more engaged, more compassionate, where people will desire to live out their adult lives with partners who share their commitments to the Jewish people.
Assistant Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics Jewish Theological Seminary, Manhattan