By Rabbi Charles Simon
We have to stop referring to intermarrieds as “.” It’s an archaic term that is too restrictive and in some communities, in some cultures, actually smacks of “profiling.” This isn’t as severe a term as the phrase “non-Jewish spouse” but even that term is weighted in today’s world.
“Intermarried” in certain religious movements includes people of patrilineal descent, while in others it does not. The word, “intermarried” in some communities includes same sex couples but in others it does not and most likely, never will. The word, “intermarried” certainly does not include couples where one party is not Jewish who are not married and let’s face it this population is growing.
We need, a more precise yet inclusive language.
This past summer, I was approached by a recently secularly married man who wished to have me officiate at his religious marriage ceremony which would take place in the following year. He found me because I had officiated at his first cousin’s marriage a number of years earlier. He was a patrilineal Jew and realized that in order for me to officiate some things, to quote him, “had to be fixed.”
My response was immediate, “of course I will officiate at your wedding and yes there are certain items that need to be addressed but I want you to know that you are Jewish by a different definition. In order for me to officiate you will need to undergo a “ceremony of completion.” This simple rephrasing placed this young man at ease and eliminated any reasons he might have had to my halakhic concerns.
In order to recognize the increased diversity that is occurring within our communities, phrases like, “people who were born into different religious traditions” need to replace words like “intermarrieds and intermarriage.” The former is embracing, the latter is restrictive and isolating. Our communities are challenged to create “A Language of Inclusion” and replacing the word, “intermarriage” is one step in the right direction.
Rabbi Charles Simon is the Executive Director of the FJMC (Federation of Jewish Mens’ Clubs) the male volunteer arm of the Conservative/Masorti Movement.