93% of Reconstructionist rabbis remain in movement

This, despite a new Reconstructionist policy allowing inter-married rabbis.

Hillel Fendel,

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A new policy enacted by the Reconstructionist movement  of Judaism has had no impact on the membership of more than 93% of the movement's rabbis.

The new policy, enacted three and a half months ago, in the middle of the Sukkot holiday, allows the ordination of students in its rabbinical school even if they are inter-married or involved in a relationship with a non-Jew. Thus, inter-married rabbis will be authorized to represent and lead Reconstructionist congregations.

Reconstructionism is termed the fourth stream of Judaism, after Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. 

The Forward reported last week that seven rabbis have quit the movement as a result of the new policy. Though exact statistics are hard to come by, it is accepted that over 100 synagogues and communal groups (havurot) that identify as Reconstructionist – such that the vast majority of rabbis in the movement have apparently made peace with the idea that their rabbinic colleagues might be married to Gentiles.

Two or three Reconstructionist synagogues are "discussing" the new policy, though only one of them is believed to be considering leaving the movement.

The Forward mentioned the name of only one rabbi who has decided to leave Reconstructionism - Reba Carmel of Warrington, Pennsylvania. She explained that the new policy allowing intermarried rabbis is “detrimental to the Jewish people in America,” and said she fears that “ultimately we will be assimilated out of existence.” The article did not state whether she herself performs inter-marriages, though both Reconstructionism and Reform Judaism sanction this.

Hebrew Union College, affiliated with the Reform movement, has deliberated the question of allowing inter-married rabbinical students, but ultimately decided in 2013 to allow only students who are married within the faith.

A document prepared by the movement before the decision was adopted, cited by the Forward, explained why the change was being considered: “Many younger progressive Jews, including many rabbis and rabbinical students, now perceive restrictions placed on those who are intermarried as reinforcing a tribalism that feels personally alienating and morally troubling in the 21st century.”


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