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Using the Mikveh as a Conversion Tool

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove recently wrote an opinion in New York’s “The Jewish Week” newspaper in which he recommended that all Rabbis use the Mikveh as a way to sanctify intermarriages, convert non-Jews to Judaism, and sanctify Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. It is an interesting and creative idea to standardize how these things are done. Permit me to quote exerpts from him directly on his idea:

“As a rabbi I have a commitment to uphold Jewish law and, as such, not officiate at interfaith weddings. As a rabbi, I also have an obligation to meet people where they are, and serve the Jewish future by helping build Jewish identity. So what exactly is a rabbi to do?”

“I offer a proposal for consideration, for synagogue communities like my own, for the Conservative movement and perhaps other arms of Jewish life to consider.

“By my read of the sources, from the Talmudic period onward, there is an established position permitting conversion to Judaism by way of mikveh immersion for a woman, and for a man, circumcision and immersion in a mikveh, coupled with a course of study.

“Mikveh immersion is the Jewish act ritualizing a sacred transformation from one state of being to another.

“In our world where there are no guarantees regarding who our children will fall in love with, it is incumbent upon us to lower, not raise, the barriers to entry to being a Jew. If a non-Jew desires to build a Jewish home with a Jewish partner, a rabbi’s job is to nurture that desire, draw both partners close and make the onramp to Jewish life as inviting and doable as possible. Read more »

Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Will Accept Students With Non-Jewish Partners

The rabbinical seminary of American Judaism’s smallest mainstream denomination will become the first major rabbinical school in the United States to admit and ordain rabbinical students who have non-Jewish spouses and partners.

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, which made its announcement September 30, has been debating the issue for years. Some leaders of Reconstructionist congregations had said they might leave the movement over the change.

“The issue of Jews intermarrying is no longer something we want to police,” said Rabbi Deborah Waxman, RRC’s president, in a press release. Read more »

We Are All Jews

In a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a woman used the term “Orthodox Judaism”.

In his response, the Rebbe wrote:

“I must point out to you the splitting Judaism into orthodox, conservative, and reform is a purely artificial division, for all Jews share one and the same Torah given by the One and same G-d. While there are more observant Jews and less observant ones, to tack on a label does not change the reality that we are all one.”

I totally agree. Would that the other “Orthodox” movements feel the same as the Rebbe and the Lubavitchers. We Jews are a small group, and its a shonda for us to fight with each other like we often do. We can disagree about things, and practice differently, but we are all God’s Jews and in the same family, descendants of Abraham and Sarah, and we should act like it.

Conservative Rabbi Backs Off on Intermarriages

Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz Backs Off Controversial Plan for Intermarriages

Prominent Cleric Would’ve Been Conservative Trailblazer

(JTA) — Within days of floating a proposal that woud have allowed Conservative rabbis to perform interfaith marriages, Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass., backed away from the controversial plan.

In a recent email, Gardenswartz asked congregants to consider a proposal for a new shul policy that would enable him to officiate at interfaith weddings in cases where the couple commits to a “Covenant to Raise Jewish Children.”

The shift would have made him the first prominent Conservative clergyman to break with the movement’s ironclad rule against rabbis performing intermarriages.

“Conservative clergy cannot officiate at or attend an interfaith wedding,” Gardenswartz wrote. “But I am worrying whether that response has grown stale, and whether a new response would better serve the needs of our families and of our congregation.” Read more »

All Are Welcome to This Synagogue

I spoke earlier today with Rabbi Joshua Davidson of Congregation Emanu-El on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, which is also Manhattan’s largest Reform synagogue, about the relationship of dues and synagogue membership.

Rabbi Davidson wanted to emphasize that no synagogue he knows of turns people away due to inability to pay, and that furthermore, most synagogues take people at their word and do not require any showing of proof. Read more »