Rabbi embraces interfaith unions

Rabbi Susan Talve

BY RABBI SUSAN TALVE

When Central Reform Congregation was forming 28 years ago, the one issue that came close to ending the vision of the founders was whether or not they could require their rabbi to perform interfaith marriages. 

It was a given, a core value, that CRC would be a welcoming place for interfaith couples. The debate was over what the community could “require” of a rabbi, and the message that a rabbi who refused to perform these marriages would convey to members and potential members living in interfaith families.

Throughout the years, I have had few doubts that performing interfaith marriages and creating a community that welcomes all kinds of interfaith families has had a positive influence on the growth and health of CRC. We are richer for the diversity and the challenge that unconditional love and acceptance brings. 

The dialogue with our non-Jewish members deepens us in our own faith and demands that we do not take the gifts of our tradition for granted. It is our non-Jewish parents who demand an authentic Jewish learning environment for their children along with a non-judgmental acceptance of family practices that are as diverse in number as the families themselves. 

ADVERTISEMENT

There are few moments more moving than at the bar or bat mitzvah of a child from an interfaith household when the non-Jewish parent and grandparents pass the Torah to their child. What a tremendous act of generosity and love: that they are willing to support this Jewish journey and enter into it for the sake of family. But we must also be willing to support whatever choice a family makes for themselves to have a spiritual path and rituals and teachings that will help them negotiate their lives. 

The wedding ceremony is an opportunity to create a transformational ritual that will help a couple become family. At best it comes with months of preparation, not only for the celebration but with counseling that will give the couple the tools they will need to have a successful marriage. I am glad the Reform movement is taking a stand to support rabbis who perform interfaith marriages, recognizing that this is an extremely important moment for us to engage and educate and support the Jewish community. 

Our tradition teaches that radical hospitality is not always easy but it is always a blessing. The seventh blessing in the Jewish wedding promises that as long as there are couples who believe in marriage and in doing so the future, then there is hope; that in the hills of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem there will be joy and gladness. May it come soon!