Rabbi booted from Conservative body for holding intermarriages

Conservative Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom has been expelled for performing interfaith weddings.


Interfaith Marriage
Interfaith Marriage
photo: JTA

Conservative Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom has been expelled from the Rabbinical Assembly, the movement’s rabbinical association, for performing interfaith weddings.

An ordained Conservative rabbi for 44 years, Rosenbloom was expelled by unanimous vote last month after a hearing of the R.A.’s Executive Council. Since 1972, the Conservative movement has prohibited its rabbis from officiating at or even attending intermarriages.

Rosenbloom told JTA the council offered to retain his membership in exchange for a promise not to perform any more intermarriages. Rosenbloom declined the offer.

“I don’t have animus toward the R.A.,” Rosenbloom told JTA Friday. “It’s a futile policy, a policy that will eventually be overturned because the trend of history is against it. I have no bitterness… I don’t feel shunned or like an outcast.”

Rosenbloom, 72, is the retired rabbi of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, a 158-year-old synagogue near Philadelphia. He officiated at his first intermarriage, between his stepdaughter and her fiancé, shortly after retiring in the summer of 2014. Since then, he has performed four additional intermarriages and has plans to conduct two more.

By performing mixed marriages, Rosenbloom feels like he’s simply acknowledging reality. The Pew Research Center’s 2013 study of American Jews found that the intermarriage rate among non-Orthodox Jews since 2005 rose to 71 percent. And a recent study from Brandeis University found that interfaith couples married only by a rabbi are significantly more likely to raise their children Jewish than those married by no rabbi or clergy of different faiths.

But Rosenbloom isn’t the only rabbi breaking from the movement over intermarriage. Rabbi Adina Lewittes decided to leave the R.A. three years ago so she could perform interfaith weddings. Lewittes said she is hearing from an increasing number of Conservative rabbis who agree with her stance privately.