Written by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain
Many Jews in Britain today are integrated into everyday society, work and mix with those who are not Jewish, form relationships with them and some of these result in marriage. It has to be said that, ideally, Judaism has always encouraged same faith marriages: partly so that the couple are in religious unison, sharing the same home practices and festive calendar; and partly so as to provide a strong Jewish upbringing for any children they may have. However, the key question is, how does the community react to mixed-marriages that have already occurred.
Whereas some synagogues, particularly the more Orthodox ones, shun Jews who have a non-Jewish partner and see the marriage as invalid, Reform Judaism accepts the reality of the situation, recognises their marriage and accepts the choice they have made.
It is also strongly aware that the Jewish partner is still Jewish, may well have a strong Jewish identity and may wish to continue their links with Jewish life. We do not accept the assumption that ‘marrying out is opting out’, but instead recognise that the Jewish partner values both their non-Jewish spouse and their Jewish heritage. If, therefore, he or she wishes to join a Reform synagogue, attend services or other events, then he/she is welcome to do so. Meanwhile the non-Jewish partner is treated with every respect and equally welcome both at services or other events. If they wish to explore the possibility of conversion, that is certainly an option, but they are still welcome if not. In addition, many Reform synagogues have ‘Introduction to Judaism’ courses which offer a simple guide to Jewish practices and beliefs for non-Jewish partners who do not want to convert, but who do wish to know more about Jewish life and tradition.