STEPHEN C. LERNER
Issues Relating to Conversion
Not so long ago, when an intermarriage occurred, a Jewish family might have sat shivah for the renegade. In earlier generations, the commandment of "do not intermarry" was the most important one the Jewish family conveyed to its young. But in our own day, intermarriage is so common that Reform rabbis who refuse to officiate at such weddings may be rejected for attractive pulpits or be subject to serious pressure to reverse their stands. Recently, a Conservative woman expressed outrage that her own marriage to a non-Jew, with a rabbi and minister officiating, would not be recorded in the synagogue bulletin, even though she knew that mixed marriage was considered unacceptable by her movement. What has led to this overwhelming change?
As of 1985, one in two Jews marrying has married a non-Jew, and in 95 percent of cases the partner did not convert to Judaism.1 This rise of intermarriage threatens the quality and numerical future of the Jewish community, which has already been weakened by the growth of secularization and assimilation, leading many born Jews to regard Judaism as irrelevant to contemporary life. In short, intermarriage has become a major cause of hand-wringing as well as the instigator of sociological and outreach strategies designed to counter the trend.