This weekend I am heading south to Louisville, Ky., where I will be the Dave and Reva Kahn scholar-in-residence at Keneseth Israel Congregation, a Conservative synagogue.
It’s my first “scholar-in-residence” gig, and the fact that a Conservative shul sought me out for this honor is significant. While the Reform movement has for decades promoted outreach to interfaith families, the Conservative movement long held to a traditional, anti-intermarriage stance. As recently as two years ago, the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism had a policy barring intermarried Jews and their spouses from publicly addressing its conventions.
But the movement, as I’ve written before is undergoing a major transition in its approach to intermarriage. While, to the best of my knowledge, no one is considering Reform policies like allowing rabbis to officiate at interfaith weddings or accepting patrilineal descent, many Conservative synagogues, particularly those that have witnessed an exodus of their members and members’ intermarried children to Reform temples, are seeking to make their communities more hospitable to interfaith families.
At Keneseth Israel, Rabbi Joel Wasser recently taught a five-week class about intermarriage, the purpose of which, he told me, was “sensitizing people to the needs and challenges of families who are ‘In the Mix.’” Flatteringly, several of my columns appeared on the reading list.
I’m looking forward to leaving my New York bubble for a weekend, not to mention enjoying a respite from my parenting responsibilities – woo hoo to two entire days devoid of tushy wiping, stroller hauling and sippy cup refills! I’m eager to meet the Keneseth Israel members and learn more about Jewish life in Kentucky. I will keep y’all posted on what I find there!