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Conservative Rabbis are still banned from officiating interfaith weddings, but for how much longer?

Published Tuesday, Aug. 29th, 2023


Photo: IVASHstudio / Adobe Stock

Committee members for the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly voted last week to keep a 50-year-old ban in place that prevents Conservative rabbis from officiating interfaith weddings… at least for now. The subject will be revisited in December, when the Rabbinical Assembly meets for its annual convention in Baltimore. 

 

The standards committee’s decision was reported by The Forward on Thursday, when reporters received a partial transcript of the closed meeting and confirmation from a rabbi in attendance. The Forward also noted that rabbis who violated the ban would continue to be expelled, but that all rabbis were encouraged to support and counsel interfaith couples before marriage. 

 

Given that the ban is increasingly unpopular among members of the denomination, however, we wonder how much longer it will stay in place. 

 

An estimated 25% of Conservative Jews in the U.S. are married to a non-Jewish spouse, and 53% believe that rabbis should be allowed to officiate interfaith marriage ceremonies (via Pew Research Center, 2020). 

 

Many Conservative Rabbis also disagree with the ban and choose to perform interfaith weddings despite the risk of expulsion (via The Forward). Although the ban is intended to strengthen Jewish marriage and the community, some rabbis feel that it sometimes harms the Jewish community by placing unnecessary distance between Jewish spouses and their faith leaders. As one recently-retired rabbi explains: 

 

“We all want a strong future for our Jewish community. Intermarriage, the argument goes, weakens that future. But that’s not necessarily so.

 

In most cases of intermarriage, Jewish partners are not abandoning Judaism or rejecting their heritage, family, congregation or people. They just want to marry the people they love.

 

Often they want a “Jewish wedding,” which is why they want the officiant to be a rabbi, preferably one with whom they have a relationship. That is why they are so hurt when we refuse.” (Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, via National Center to Encourage Judaism, reprinted from JTA)

 

Conservative Judaism is historically progressive. If the Rabbinical Assembly moves to drop or revise the ban in the future, the decision would align with the denomination’s ongoing commitment to inclusion and support for modern family structures and identities. 

 

For example, Conservative Rabbis have been allowed to perform same-sex commitment ceremonies since 2006, when the Rabbinical Assembly determined that the matter should be left up to individual rabbis and congregations. The denomination has also supported the ordination of openly gay and lesbian rabbis since 2006 (via Human Rights Campaign).
 
In contrast, Orthodox Judaism prohibits interfaith marriages, same-sex marriages, and the ordination of openly LGBTQ+ rabbis (although individual congregations may be welcoming to LGBTQ+ members and families). The Reform movement, which is the most progressive Jewish denomination and also the largest Jewish denomination in the U.S., has allowed rabbis to officiate interfaith marriages since the 1980s (via The Forward), same-sex ceremonies since 2000, and has supported LGBTQ+ rights since the 1960s (via ReformJudaism.org). 

 

The upcoming Conservative/Masorti Rabbinical Assembly convention, called Building Our Movement Together 2023 Convening, will take place December 3rd-5th at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. According to The Forward, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, the chief executive of the RA, has said that interfaith officiating will be at the top of the list of topics to discuss. 

 

Find more details about the RA's upcoming convention here: Building Our Movement Together 2023 Convening

 

 

We look forward to learning more about their decision... 

 

In the meantime, we enthusiastically support interfaith marriages of all kinds, and encourage couples to choose a wedding officiant who respects and celebrates their love.

 

Interfaith couples can ask a friend or relative to perform their marriage ceremony: Friends and relatives can become ordained with AMM for free online to officiate a ceremony, and find the resources on our site that they need to design a unique wedding that celebrates multiple faiths in beautiful ways.

 

 

 

Below are a few resources to help officiants perform interfaith Jewish wedding ceremonies: 

 

 

 



 


Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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