I’ve changed my mind on officiation of interfaith weddings

Posted on July 1, 2014

It’s been a long time coming.  When I was ordained 17 years ago, I confidently decided that I would only officiate at the weddings for two Jews.  I reasoned that my ceremonies were Jewish and that the minimum standard would be Jewish identity, as defined by the Reform movement.  I long felt that it was easy to explain and understand.  It has worked for me for a number of years.

As time has gone by though, I have found myself feeling sad at the all the weddings I cannot officiate.  I am appreciative that my Temple Beth David community has been respectful of my position however my remorse has only been increasing.  I have asked myself what have I, my synagogue, or the Jewish community gained by my stance?  My answer to myself has been disappointing.  I confess that having a stance of only officiating for two Jews has not brought together even one Jewish couple nor has it encouraged Jewish home life.  Moreover, I see active members of our synagogue where despite one parent not being Jewish, they are raising their children as strongly identifying Jews.

For the sake of fostering Judaism, I have undertaken a period of reflection.  Over the past year, I have interviewed a number of rabbis that I respect.  I even spent time with a conservative colleague in hopes of being dissuaded of changing my position.  Surprisingly, he was understanding and even supportive.   I have found myself admiring those rabbis who do interfaith weddings when there is a commitment to Judaism and the raising of Jewish children.

And so after this year, I am ready to say that I have changed my mind.  For the sake of encouraging Judaism and helping couples embrace Jewish rites and rituals, I have come to the following decision:

I will do interfaith weddings for our congregants under these conditions: (provided it is a healthy relationship with counseling sessions with me.)

  1. Judaism will be the dominant religion of the household.
  2. The couple is willing to take the Introduction to Judaism course or something similar.
  3. There is a commitment to raising their children solely as Jews.
  4. The wedding will be a Jewish one.

There will be times, when the couple isn’t ready to make this commitment to Jewish life.  I will be respectful of these couples and offer counseling and referrals to clergy who can meet their needs.   My new stance, though, will enable me to participate in more weddings of our congregation.   These are ones that I believe will help strengthen Judaism and the future of our people.

Blessed are You, Adonai, who created sashon v’simcha (joy and happiness).

Rabbi Nancy Myers