For Israel’s Reform Jews, no need to follow US peers in ordaining rabbis in interfaith marriages

by | Jul 3, 2024 | Religion

JERUSALEM (RNS) — As president of the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Andrew Rehfeld has met many prospective rabbinical students. Yet he still remembers a candidate that HUC could not accept.“She was an exceptional human” who became passionate about Judaism while serving in the military, Rehfeld said. But there was one insurmountable problem: Her partner wasn’t Jewish.
“She asked if our prohibition against ordaining rabbis with a non-Jewish partner or spouse was still in force. This was in 2020. She said, ‘My partner’s not Jewish, and although he’s very interested in Judaism, he’s not willing to convert at the moment, and I’m not willing to give him up as a partner.’”
Unfortunately, Rehfeld said, “we had to say no to this student and our movement lost her.”   
Last month, the American branch of HUC reversed the prohibition against ordaining rabbinical and cantorial students with non-Jewish spouses. The move, which is not binding on HUC’s Israel Rabbinical Program, or IRC, reflects the reality that the majority of Reform Jews — the largest Jewish denomination in North America — are married to non-Jews.
“In North America, marrying a non-Jew is no lon …

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[mwai_chat context=”Let’s have a discussion about this article:nnJERUSALEM (RNS) — As president of the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Andrew Rehfeld has met many prospective rabbinical students. Yet he still remembers a candidate that HUC could not accept.“She was an exceptional human” who became passionate about Judaism while serving in the military, Rehfeld said. But there was one insurmountable problem: Her partner wasn’t Jewish.
“She asked if our prohibition against ordaining rabbis with a non-Jewish partner or spouse was still in force. This was in 2020. She said, ‘My partner’s not Jewish, and although he’s very interested in Judaism, he’s not willing to convert at the moment, and I’m not willing to give him up as a partner.’”
Unfortunately, Rehfeld said, “we had to say no to this student and our movement lost her.”   
Last month, the American branch of HUC reversed the prohibition against ordaining rabbinical and cantorial students with non-Jewish spouses. The move, which is not binding on HUC’s Israel Rabbinical Program, or IRC, reflects the reality that the majority of Reform Jews — the largest Jewish denomination in North America — are married to non-Jews.
“In North America, marrying a non-Jew is no lon …nnDiscussion:nn” ai_name=”RocketNews AI: ” start_sentence=”Can I tell you more about this article?” text_input_placeholder=”Type ‘Yes'”]
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