In a perfect world, I would agree that more Jewish education and creative positive Jewish experiences would stem the trend of intermarriage. (Editorial, “Outreach or inreach?” Sept. 19). Logically this sounds right, but I can tell you with 40 years’ experience in Conservative synagogues, the reality is that even the children with positive experiences and who excelled in Hebrew school intermarry.
Many intermarry simply because they attend college away from home, fall in love, and believe love will conquer all. A rabbi can speak himself blue in the face about the non-Jewish partner converting, but usually it makes no difference. The non-Jewish partner does not wish to convert and the Jewish partner feels compromise and accommodation will work things out. The pain and anguish occurs when the intermarried couple has children and there is a baptism. This tears the hearts out of the grandparents who have no choice; they do not want to lose their children or grandchildren.
The children of a non-Jewish mother are not Jewish. We have now lost them forever. One suggestion for Conservative Judaism, which I believe will happen in the future, is for the movement to join Reform in accepting patrilineal descent with provisions encouraging Jewish education for the children. I have problems accepting this solution.
I know of at least one Orthodox rabbi, Jack Simcha Cohen, who wrote a responsa in 1987 arguing for the acceptance of the conversion of a child born to a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father even without observance.
I do not have the answer; I believe no one does. But I do know that if individuals do not believe they are Jewish according to Halacha, they will not seek Judaism but will follow the non-Jewish mother’s religion.
Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg
Temple Beth El