Letter: Jews by choice
Wednesday 30 September 1998
Sure, there are problems, outmarriage - and note I do not say "intermarriage" - being the major one. I speak only for one branch of Judaism - Reform - but our experience of huge numbers of people coming to educational courses on Jewish history, culture, language - and religion even - does not speak of a community on its way out. Our Movement's, Orthodoxy's and non-affiliated education seminars are bulging at the seams.
To return to the problem of attrition by outmarriage, however, it is here that we part company from our more traditional co-religionists.
Most committed Jewish families - and that includes the huge number whose only contact with their faith is chicken soup, barmitzvahs and Jewish New Year - fear their children marrying outside the faith. It is however an increasing fact of life. A community of 300,000 in a population of 60 million cannot stop it, and we have tried.
The answer is - as far as our Movement is concerned - to turn outmarriage into inmarriage. This is not - yet - a view shared by Orthodoxy, where conversion is all but impossible. Conversion, while not encouraged vigorously by Judaism, has a long tradition dating back to Ruth in the Bible and even before. Many other Jewish communities worldwide make it easier for people to join in than is the case in the UK.
We do all we can to retain our young Jews who find non-Jewish partners. Our rabbis train and teach, encouraging the Jewish partner often to return to a faith they had all but abandoned. There is no shame in keeping your child loyal to his or her traditions and welcoming the partner. The alternative route -wringing our hands while eschewing the only way of staunching the flow - leads nowhere but to a small echt-kosher rump, living in isolation in a few parts of London and Manchester. We will not settle for that.
At my own synagogue many of our most committed and spiritual worshippers are there by choice rather than accident of birth. Our future includes a recognition of the need to match our commitment to traditional values and practices to a dialogue with modernity.
Reform Synagogues of Great Britain
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 3 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'