The Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK took a significant step this week towards recognising the realities of intermarriage by removing the threat of expulsion from rabbis who officiate at mixed-faith wedding celebrations.
While the Assembly still remains formally opposed to the involvement of rabbis in mixed-faith blessings, it noted that “many of our colleagues strongly disagree” with that stance.
Until now, Reform rabbis could attend a mixed-faith civil celebration in a personal capacity or advise the couple about incorporating a Jewish element within it. If rabbis went further, they faced the threat of expulsion.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Assembly said that it “maintains a clear opposition to the involvement of rabbis in any kind of mixed-faith ceremony or blessing around civil wedding celebrations. However, the Assembly no longer regards such involvement as being incompatible with membership of the Assembly.”
Some rabbis believed that being involved was an “important component in continuing and extending the couples’ engagement with Judaism”.
Reform rabbis who wish to take part in such ceremonies have been advised that they should not include anything that resembles a Jewish wedding such as a chuppah or sheva berachot.
According to the guidelines, the civil wedding or celebration should not take place on Shabbat or a festival.
No clergy from other faiths should participate in the ceremony.
The guidelines also state that “a celebration should not be conducted unless there is a prior programme of study and Jewish participation so that the couple intends to, and is capable of, building a Jewish home.
“Those Reform rabbis who do choose to do so will not be conducting marriages between mixed-faith couples but rather will be creating a celebration following the couple’s civil marriage.”
The Assembly remained committed to the belief that Jewish marriage was the “best basis for a successful and meaningful Jewish life”. When a Jew intended to marry a non-Jew, Reform rabbis would encourage the non-Jewish partner to convert.