By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler
Moment’s Rabbi Harold S. White Fellow Jeremy Gillick (left) has an interesting–and important–piece over at New Voices.
It’s called “The Coming of the Intermarried Rabbi” and is definitely worth checking out.
One quick excerpt:
If the [rabbinical schools’ harsh intermarriage] policies affect only a small number of potential rabbis, they channel strong ideological currents. Rabbinical leaders contend that the policies are not only consistent with halacha, but actually embody core notions of Jewishness. “Jewishness has not historically been understood as a matter of individual faith or choice,” explains Jonathan Boyarin, a professor of modern Jewish thought at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “but as entitlement and obligation based ultimately on descent.” With this notion of Jewish collectivity already threatened by high intermarriage rates in America, the schools see rabbis as the last remaining bulwark in the fight to keep liberal Judaism Jewish; if the levees break and the policies are washed away, they worry, Jewishness as we know it could disappear.
That’s exactly what some policy opponents want: to expand the boundaries of Jewishness with the goal of ultimately redefining what it means to be a Jew. “At stake in this debate,” explains Rabbi Shirley Idelson, dean of HUC’s New York campus, “are competing visions of our people’s future—if and how we will survive, what we will look like, and the role that rabbis and cantors will play in shaping our people’s future.”