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“…a more assertive approach to intermarriage can be augmented through the creative thinking of Jewish leaders committed to making their own journey from timidity to self-assurance”

…a more assertive approach to intermarriage can be augmented through the creative thinking of Jewish leaders committed to making their own journey from timidity to self-assurance. As with so many battles, the first casualty in contending with intermarriage has been the truth. It is past time not only to rebut the falsehoods and expose the failed promises but to proclaim that, for the sake of the American Jewish future, it matters greatly who stands under the marriage canopy. The blurring of religious boundaries in order to achieve peace in the home may lower tensions in the short term, but demonstrably sows confusion in children and huge losses of adherents in the longer term. The Jewish community and its leaders are not the cause of the disaffection of the intermarried; but neither need they handcuff themselves in order to placate activists who use the power of the purse to intimidate, or defeatists who counsel capitulation.

Jack Wertheimer, “Intermarriage: Can Anything Be Done?Mosaic (September 2013).

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“Can Jewish leaders work together with this silent majority to overthrow the regnant approaches to intermarriage?”

Can Jewish leaders work together with this silent majority to overthrow the regnant approaches to intermarriage? And if so, how?

First and foremost, a more assertive approach to intermarriage would require the dignified acknowledgement by Jewish institutions that endogamous families are the Jewish ideal—the best hope for transmitting a strong identity to the next generation. Once this crucial premise is openly espoused, the next logical step is to invest heavily in intensive forms of Jewish education through the college years and in helping Jewish singles, including the “alumni” of this education, to meet each other. Our advanced technologies and the ease of contemporary travel offer unprecedented opportunities to bring American Jews together with their peers and to nurture stronger connections with the Jewish people globally.

Practically speaking, it makes sense, as the previous paragraph suggests, to focus less energy on courting already intermarried families—once an intermarriage has occurred, it is far more difficult for communal institutions to intervene—than on encouraging as many single Jews as possible to marry within the community. Birthright Israel serves as one model for such programs; many more initiatives like it are needed in the United States. Their message should be transparent: instead of being infantilized with assurances that no strings will ever be attached, younger Jews need to hear without equivocation why it is important to build Jewish families. And they must be told the truth: the American Jewish community is in a fight for its life, and the younger generation is expected to shoulder its share of responsibility.

Jack Wertheimer, “Intermarriage: Can Anything Be Done?Mosaic (September 2013).

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“Promptly following the first arrival of Jews in colonial America, the synagogue became the most significant institution of Jewish life”

Promptly following the first arrival of Jews in colonial America, the synagogue became the most significant institution of Jewish life. Unlike in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, when other institutions, such as Jewish community centers and Jewish philanthropic organizations, often claimed to be the “central address” of the Jewish community, no other organization challenged the dominance of the early synagogues. In part, this was the case for two reasons: because, well into the nineteenth century, synagogues incorporated activities that later, as the Jewish population grew, could not all be contained within the synagogue or whose leaders did not want them to be part of the synagogue, and also because the Jewish community was so small…. The synagogue…was the Jewish community in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries . As American Jews slowly created philanthropic organizations, the synagogue enveloped them.

Marc Lee Raphael, The Synagogue in America: A Short History (New York & London: New York University Press, 2011), 2.