An American Jewish Committee official says that intermarriage is a “tragedy” for Israel because it presents a “crisis” to the core political support for Israel, organizations led by Conservative and Reform Jews.
Steven Bayme talked about the “danger” of intermarriage in remarks four years ago to a religious Jewish organization. (I noticed the speech this week because Bayme is a leading thinker, and yet the AJC chose not to publish his latest video webinar during the pandemic– maybe because I reported on the last one).
Bayme upholds a conservative view of intermarriage, that it’s a “tragedy” that more than 70 percent of non-orthodox Jews are marrying non-Jews; “we’ve lost 2 million Jews over the last 25 years.” Bayme wishes to restore traditional official disapproval of the practice so as to stem the tide.
Bayme repeatedly cites the threat to Israel support, because non-Jewish spouses foster Jewish alienation from Israel.
If you look at the barometer simply of commitment to Israel… in the current population of mixed married’s there is enormous disinterest in matters relating to Israel. There’s tremendous dispute among the social scientists over whether younger Jews are distancing themselves from Israel… Looking at inmarrieds, there may be more distancing, there may be less distancing, but the point of agreement is that, Once you factor in mixed-married’s as a population, the distancing from Israel increases significantly.
The danger obviously is that if the cause of Israel becomes an orthodox cause alone, that will be a tragedy for the Jewish people, a tragedy for the state of Israel and frankly a tragedy for American Jewry.
Intermarriage erodes the most highly-organized Jewish community in history, Bayme said.
The Conservative and Reform movements represent the architectural backbone of Jewish life. They are the ones who are mounting the case for Israel, they are ones who are giving to Jewish Federations.
So when their kids marry non-Jews, that presents “a crisis for future Jewish organized commitment…[and] activism for Israel.”
In his speech to the Union for Traditional Judaism, Bayme sought to reverse the growing acceptance of intermarriage inside the Jewish community. In polls, 56 percent of Jews “said they would not be pained by the outmarriage of their progeny,” 50 percent said they regard opposition to mixed marriage as “racist,” while 42 percent ignore a traditional taboo, and favor co-officiation of Jewish and non-Jewish clergy at mixed weddings.
Bayme said that Jewish organizations must restore traditional norms against intermarriage. “The danger is is that we become neutral on the question of inmarriage and endogamy. … We simply say that because we don’t wish to give any offense we can’t uphold two age old Jewish values of encouraging inmarriage and when mixed marriage occurs, the single best outcome is conversion to Judaism…These two norms have collapsed on our watch.”