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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Monday, July 24, 2017

B’nai Jeshurun is an important, widely regarded synagogue in New York City.  It will soon start officiating the weddings of couples who are of different faiths, one Jewish and the other not. The conditions of the weddings being that the interfaith couples will dedicate themselves to raising their children in the Jewish faith and otherwise building homes that are Jewish.

The new policy of marrying interfaith couples was officially made public at the annual meeting of the synagogue on Thursday, June 15th. The policy will be carried out in accordance with halachah, or established Jewish law, to encourage the participation of interfaith couples.  A ketubah, or traditional document which makes a marriage between two Jews a compact, will not be signed by the couples in this case. However, they will be expected to sign a tenaim, or ritual Jewish marriage contract. The tenaim is more of a customary agreement for couples wishing to be engaged which establishes the requirements for their marriage.  According to B’nai Jeshurun’s senior rabbi, J. Rolando Matalon, “We are embracing a significant change in how we approach the future of Jewish life at BJ.”  The decision to allow interfaith marriages was, in his words a, “shift in emphasis in the way we relate to and invite in intermarried couples.”

The “matrilineal” definition of a child’s Jewish identity, in which any child born to a Jewish mother [by birth or conversion] is considered Jewish by the community, will be honored by the synagogue as well.  Non-Jewish fathers and children will be expected to bathe in the mikvah if they are to fully convert to Judaism at the synagogue.

The synagogue’s decision to start officiating interfaith marriages is coming at a time of great debate (and upheaval, according to some) centering around the increasing numbers of interfaith marriages involving Jews, fewer and fewer of which are continuing Jewish traditions for their children.  According to a study carried out by the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem, only around 40% of Jews are marrying other Jews and that for non-Orthodox Jews in America, only about 32% of Jewish couples are raising their children Jewish in any manner at all.  Finally, its been reported that only 8% of grandchildren born to parents who were raised by interfaith couples have any identity at all as “Jews by religion.”