Jewish Family Values
To the Editor:
Jack Wertheimer’s “Family Values & the Jews” [January] includes a frontal assault against the rabbinate and the religious movements of American Judaism. He is critical of these two groups “who should be the natural leaders to shore up the crumbling Jewish family.” Mr. Wertheimer characterizes rabbis and lay leaders alike as feeling “powerless to influence Jews at large or . . . fearful of saying anything that might drive away the minority who actually join their synagogues.” It is surprising that a professor at the rabbinical school of the Jewish Theological Seminary chastises the rabbinate, by asserting: “Today, as rabbis become therapists, the community has found itself largely bereft of the superego, in the form of religious leaders willing to articulate what it should and can do.” He is particularly uninformed when he distorts our response to issues of homosexuality and human sexuality in general, about which we have neither been silent nor “powerless.” Indeed, the Rabbinical Assembly has appointed a blue-ribbon committee which is studying human sexuality and will render a report to our law committee. Given the limitations of space, I will focus upon only one aspect of Mr. Wertheimer’s subsequent illustrations of his thesis, e.g., the response of the Conservative movement to interfaith marriage, the core family-value issue within the Jewish-continuity deliberations.
Contrary to Mr. Wertheimer’s accusation of silence and/or appeasement with regard to intermarriage, the Conservative movement, in spite of voices urging us to accede to “demographic reality,” has regularly reaffirmed and strengthened its long record of opposition to “out-marriage.” For example, two years ago the biennial convention of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism highlighted a major address by Steven Bayme, director of the Department of Jewish Communal Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, and of its William Petschek National Jewish Family Center, urging Conservative Judaism to fortify its record of promoting in-marriage. In response, the United Synagogue launched an aggressive venture of publications and programs to increase endogamy. The United Synagogue Commission on Promoting Marriage Within the Faith clearly articulates “prevention as its goal.”
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