We live in a world, according to the Pew Research Center, where the overall intermarriage rate of Jews in the United States stands at 58 percent. Among non-Orthodox Jews, the rate is 71 percent. It is hard to find a family at Temple Beth El who has not been touched in some way by intermarriage. And its implications for our synagogue — for the Conservative movement in general — are profound.
The landscape has changed irrevocably, and we can either wring our hands and do nothing or try to expand the vistas of Judaism and the embrace of the Jewish people.
How do we foster constructive dialog among TBE members about the realities of intermarriage? How do we, as Jewish parents and grandparents, acknowledge our growingly diverse families and help them experience the richness of our religion to the fullest extent possible? How can we enhance our efforts to reach out to interfaith families, both within and outside our synagogue, and make them feel truly welcome and a valued part of our TBE community?
To help answer these questions, Temple Beth El, with support from its Men’s Club, has formed a Keruv Committee whose members include Stan Friedman (chair), Sue Frieden, Richard Heimler, Judy Aronin, Scott and Rae-ann Allen, Rabbi Hammerman, and our executive director, Steve Lander.
The Hebrew word keruv (pronounced kay-roov) means “to bring close” and, over the months to come, the committee will introduce programming to help couples, parents and extended families deal with issues regarding interfaith relationships and marriage. For example, the committee is planning to form a “Grandparents Circle” through which TBE grandparents can explore ways to help nurture the Jewish identities of their grandchildren while respecting the choices of their intermarried children. Rabbi Hammerman will hold a session in early April on how to tailor a Seder for a diverse family and tell the Passover story in a meaningful way. Other activities will follow.
At the same time, the committee will study and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees on changes to current synagogue life that might foster a warmer and more welcoming environment and further engage dual-faith families — all within the framework and tenets of Conservative Judaism.
We hope you will support the committee’s efforts, and we invite you to provide your comments and suggestions at any time to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keruv is a nationwide initiative begun in the early 1990s by the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs and its executive director, Rabbi Chuck Simon.