Shul 'lifeline' for women marrying out

By Jonathan Kalmus, July 15, 2010

Affiliates of the Manchester Council of Synagogues are to review the membership policies of synagogues which bar those who have married out.

The policies are designed to discourage intermarriage but, in light of the Supreme Court's JFS ruling, the bar could now stop some Jewish children getting into Manchester Jewish schools. This is because families have to have synagogue membership, rather than show attendance to satisfy the religious practice-based admissions criteria.

The issue was raised at the council's annual meeting on Monday night, following the case of Liverpool's Dawn Chapple. She found difficulty fulfilling the admissions criteria of Liverpool King David High School's criteria partly because some city synagogues have a policy of not giving membership to women with a non-Jewish spouse.

Solicitor Jonathan Dover, a governor of Manchester's King David High, told the council, which has 18 Orthodox affiliates, that the possibility of a halachically Jewish child not associating with a synagogue because his mother married out "should be righted".

He said: "If you do have a situation which affects Jewish children getting a Jewish education, these children should become members so they can get what they are entitled to."

Mr Dover, who is a former pupil of King David Liverpool, suggested that Manchester synagogues adopt a universal membership policy to allow Jewish women who marry out to join.

Other executive members gave strong support to a plan to introduce junior memberships for children whose mothers cannot join certain shuls.

But Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag of Whitefield Hebrew Congregation, which does accept members who have intermarried, says policy changes may not be required. He told the meeting that synagogues could simply direct parents whose children are affected towards an Orthodox synagogue that they could join.

He said after the meeting: "There are definitely two sides to the debate. On one hand you don't want to cut people out of the community, but on the other hand people should be aware that marrying out is not a good thing. A variety of policies means people can find an Orthodox shul that will accommodate their situation."

Last updated: 12:52pm, July 15 2010