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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.

The long debate was finally resolved in a lengthy RRC faculty meeting September 21, culminating in a vote. Waxman would not share the vote tally, citing the confidentiality of faculty deliberations.

The faculty vote resulted in the revocation of a line in the school’s policies that barred students from enrolling in the rabbinical seminary if they were married to, or in a committed relationship with, a non-Jew. The school will now accept students with non-Jewish partners.

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An RRC report issued in April related that the majority of Reconstructionist congregations that responded to a survey supported the change. Still, some leaders strongly opposed dropping the policy, with some fearing rifts in the movement.

“We know this is a challenging topic, and there’s been a wide range of opinions,” Waxman said. “I feel very confident we will keep walking this path together.”

Reconstructionist Judaism, which emphasizes Judaism’s dual status as both a culture and a religion, developed as a movement in the years prior to World War II. It currently claims about 100 affiliated congregations in the United States. RRC, its seminary, was founded in 1968.

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     –Excerpted from an article in the Forward by Josh-Nathan Kazis, Sept. 30, 2015

My Take

This is a great way to expand the Jewish people after the loss of the 6 million. You’re not going to stop intermarriage anyway — as one rabbi said, that horse is out of the barn. But if the Jewish spouse stays Jewish, which obviously would be the case for a rabbinical candidate, the chances are good that the non-Jewish spouse will either become Jewish or at least let the children be raised Jewish.

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