When Jews choose to become Jewish leaders, their actions leave the realm of private decisions rendered for their personal benefit and become public decisions that carry deep symbolic and practical significance for us all.
Of course, not everyone agrees. Rabbi Ellen Lippmann recently described her experience as an intermarried rabbi, arguing that Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion should admit intermarried rabbinical students freely.
I have no reason to doubt Lippmann’s description of her relationship with a “permanently lapsed Irish Catholic” who participates in some Jewish traditions, nor do I doubt her relationship with her congregation. But as someone who has both lived the reality of interfaith marriage and spent years as a Jewish communal leader interacting with interfaith families, I bring a rather different perspective.
When I met my wife, she was a devout Christian who led the music program for a Texas mega-church. Unable to find a rabbi, she and I were married by a justice of the peace, with her minister’s participation. We were happily intermarried for 16 years. But today we are an observant Jewish family living near Jerusalem. I often forget that I am the only one in my family to have been born a Jew.