Ironically, the intermarriage crisis has rekindled an appreciation of the
propriety and desirability of conversion after centuries of its denigration. When talking to converts about the wonders of Judaism, Jews also
talk to themselves. As Judaism has again become an or le-goyim, a light
to the nations, it has also brought a new light and spirit to all Jews.
See the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey published in the summer
of 1991 by the
Council of Jewish Federations. The disturbing findings reveal
that while the rate of intermarriage has increased sharply, the rate of conversion
to Judaism has declined.
Baron Salo W., A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 18 vols., 2d ed.
( Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1952), 1:167-79.
See the texts of the bans in
S. Zevulun Lieberman, "A Sephardic Ban on
Converts," in The Conversion Crisis, ed.
Emanuel Feldman and
Joel B. Wolowelsky
( Hoboken, NJ: Ktav/ Rabbinical Council of America, 1990) pp. 49- 52.
Egon Mayer and
Amy Avgar, Conversion among the Intermarried ( New
York: Petschek National Jewish Family Center, American Jewish Committee, 1987), p. 33.
S. B. Fishman, et al., Intermarriage and American Jews Today: New
Findings and Policy Implications (Waltham, MA: Cohen Center for Modern
Jewish Studies, Brandeis University, 1990), p. 25.
Jacob I. Schochet ( Who Is a few [ New York: Shofar Association, 1987],
p. 30) puts it, "This refusal by the 'orthodox' to acknowledge the legitimacy of
the non-Orthodox is not an ad personam bias, nor a political judgment against
an organization. It is, rather, the refusal on principle to accept a philosophy and
a way of life that contradict the foundations of Torah life, of Jewish tradition."
That such an argument is frequently merely a pretext for delegitimatizing non-
Orthodox rabbis is underscored by the fact that some leading Orthodox rabbis
have suddenly arranged for the conversion of people who have not studied the
"correct" Torah, in that they were taught by Conservative rabbis.
Although most of those who convert after marriage do so during the first
decade of married life, I have converted people after thirty-seven and forty-four
years of marriage to Jewish partners.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
| Bernard Bamberger, Proselytism in the Talmudic Period ( New York: Ktav,
[ 1939] 1968), is a fine study of rabbinic attitudes to conversion, showing the|
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Celebration & Renewal:Rites of Passage in Judaism.
Contributors: Rela M. Geffen - Editor.
Publisher: Jewish Publication Society.
Place of publication: Philadelphia.
Publication year: 1993.
Page number: 88.
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