The Intermarried Rabbi and Me

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About Diana Lang

Diana Lang has written 60 post in this blog.

Diana Lang is the author of the best selling books Personal Archeology: The Poetry of Rediscovery, Abundant Sparks: A Contemporary Poetry Collection, Tea and Sprockets: A Modern American Poetry Book and Your Poetry eBook: Quick & Easy Formatting for Kindle. Lang is best known for her films The Hebrew Project and Liquid Wind and her singles “Last Chance Disaster” and “Wilderness” as Tranquoizier.

No one can predict the future of the Jewish people. But many jump to the conclusion that intermarriage is the downfall of the Jewish people, and the intermarried rabbi will be the catalyst.

I am not a rabbi due to the denominational catch-22. I applied to rabbinical school in 2012. Upon the discovery that my husband, a self-identified Karaite would be unable to convert formally to Karaite Judaism unless I converted as well, I revealed this to the school, and as a result, I had to withdraw my application.

I will not force my husband to convert to Reform Judaism just so that I can go to rabbinical school. It would be just as invalid if he forced me to undergo the Karaite conversion process so that he could become formally a Karaite. The “intermarriage” of a Karaite and a Rabbinate is not the problem, as both are valid streams of Judaism. My husband and I have found harmony and compromise despite the variations in practice and apparent contradiction.

Yes, the ideal is that Jews marry Jews, and that Gentiles convert to Judaism if they are so moved. I know the interwoven threads of who is Jewish and who isn’t. The lack of acceptance of paternal lineage by the more traditional denominations versus the radical acceptance by the Reform movement and other progressively leaning denominations. The lack of cross-denominational and sometimes even cross-country conversion standards. Some traditional denominations denying the validity of progressive seminary trained rabbis to be competent enough to preside over a conversion ceremony. The opposite, an acceptance of a conversion ceremony that includes a mikvah and bet din of some kind.

I get it. Judaic theory vs. Judaic practice vs. Judaic reality.

I understand your halakhic viewpoint, but I am confused since Reform Judaism claims to be a non-halakhic movement. I understand the Conservative viewpoint and boundaries. I understand the Orthodox ones.

But explain to me, why a progressive Jewish movement that encourages non-Jews to raise Jewish children, that allows non-Jews to attend services, that does not actively encourage the Jew-curious in their congregations to formally convert, would encourage a prospective rabbinical student to force their spouse to convert. Is that not an invalid conversion? Is converting for love of spouse a valid conversion? What about for love of Judaism?

Rejection based on marriage instead of merit is discrimination. Better that I should flunk a Hebrew examination than to be told that the love of my life is not good enough for you.

For the past five months, I am going through the motions if I try to pray. Everything about my life, so entrenched in my love of being Jewish reminds me of where I wanted to be. Once in a while reality subsides and I return to that moment of joyous spirituality, riding the Hebrew letters in meditative practice. It never lasts. These days it is hard to leave my head. Yes, I still love Torah, my people, my shul. I go to Torah study most Shabbats, and still don’t work on Shabbat or holidays, but prayer, I am not there. Silent prayer of my own, I really have nothing to say.

I find myself wanting to cling more to my husband. Stay home more. I choose love over a professional Jewish career. I truly believe it is the right choice. So don’t ask me about going back to school. I am a proud Reform Jewess, so becoming Renewal or Humanistic or Secular is not an option. Forget it. You lost me. I have no intentions of ever applying again. I would hate to go down in history as the woman who started the downfall of Judaism. My personal rabbinic dream is dead.

I can only think that if this policy exists in the hierarchy of training, it must be equally prevalent throughout individual schools and shuls, as this extends also to the Jewish education field of study.

The can of worms that is the intermarried rabbi. No one is asking that you accept a non-Jew into rabbinical school or cantorial school, but merely that you accept that love does not have these boundaries. I was pro-in-marriage until I was awakened to the fact that I am considered by some close friends and the educational gatekeepers to be intermarried myself. At the very least consider applicants on a case by case basis. At the very least, open up the school of education if the idea of intermarried rabbis and intermarried cantors is just too taboo.

Or just keep blogging your hypothetical arguments and alarming statistics of 51%. But we aren’t a statistic. We are humans with feelings. You blog with your theories, but remember, your words hurt real people. Your policies hurt real people. Count me among them.
List of articles for and against and everything in between:

The Forward:
Reform Jewry grapples with Intermarriage among Rabbis
Open letter to HUC from Rabbi Lippmann
Why a Rabbi Should Not Marry Outside the Faith
Interfaith Family: Star Crossed Rabbis
Intermarried Rabbis and Intermarriage Attitudes
Rabbinical Students and Intermarriage
Rabbinical Students and Intermarriage, Part 2.
Rabbis and Intermarriage
Rabbi Jason Miller:
Intermarried Rabbinical Students
Jewish Ideas Daily: Faith & Matrimony
Jewish Outreach Institute:
The Last Taboo: Intermarried Rabbis
New Voices:
The Coming of the Intermarried Rabbi
Reform Judaism Magazine:
Debatable: Should Our Seminary Admit Students with Non-Jewish Partners?
Shma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility:
Rabbinic Life Partners: Do they have to be Jewish?

The Times of Israel:
Rigidity is the real threat to continuity
The threat of warrantless hatred
Intermarried Rabbis? Please!
Rabbis married to Gentiles
Marriage Freedom for Reform Rabbis
Tablet Magazine: Big Tent Country

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Not a rabbi.
December 2, 2012 at 2:57pm

I wrote this originally for my sisterhood, but since I am tired of re-explaining and it hurts me every time I have to do so, I am posting this here:

I want to extend my gratitude to all of you for your words of
confidence, encouragement, and support, as I explored entering the
rabbinate. I was forced to withdraw my application on Wednesday.

My husband, Tim, who started on his Jewish path long before we met,
has not formally converted. Therefore, in the eyes of Halakah, and the
college administration, he is not Jewish. In my eyes, he is. I see him
fasting on Yom Kippur, turning down jobs for Shabbat observance,
losing pay to take holidays off, sleeping outside for all of Sukkot,
meticulously reading ingredients on the food that we buy just to make
sure nothing unkosher has slipped in. You all do not know him, as he
rarely comes to shul, but he is a good man.

His Jewish philosophy aligns most closely with Karaite Judaism.
Therefore, it would be an invalid expression of his Judaism for me to
ask him to convert Reform. This movement requires that both members of
a couple must convert, and I am not a Karaite, so it would be a false
conversion. We are stuck in a catch-22, and therefore, I am not good
enough for the rabbinate.

HUC’s current policy is that persons married to non-Jews are
ineligible to enter the clergy or educational fields. I was aware of
their policy when I started the application, yet it never occurred to
me that I was intermarried. This policy is the same with Conservative
and Reconstructionist as well. While this policy does not extend to
Renewal, Humanistic, or Post-Denominational streams of Judaism, I love
being Reform, and have no plans to re-attempt the rabbinate.

This rejection has nothing to do with my ability, knowledge,
spirituality or intelligence, but is about who I choose to love. As a
result, I am confused, and experiencing a lot of grief and swinging
emotions. It has hit me pretty hard, so my apologies if I am not my
usual self lately.

 

 

Note: I’ve worked through a lot of the grief from this, but I still stand by my statements. If genetic tests are worth anything, we both have a small degree of Ashkenazi ancestry. Ironically, him more than me.

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About Diana Lang

Diana Lang is the author of the best selling books Personal Archeology: The Poetry of Rediscovery, Abundant Sparks: A Contemporary Poetry Collection, Tea and Sprockets: A Modern American Poetry Book and Your Poetry eBook: Quick & Easy Formatting for Kindle. Lang is best known for her films The Hebrew Project and Liquid Wind and her singles “Last Chance Disaster” and “Wilderness” as Tranquoizier.

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