Six Northern California Conservative rabbis and two lay leaders produced this short book, representing the Tiferet Project, a two-year study on intermarriage and the synagogue community. The authors announce their ideology on the title page, quoting the prophet Isaiah: “Enlarge the site of your tent, extend the size of your dwelling. Spare not!” The Tiferet Project aims to widen the Conservative tent, to welcome Jews and their non- Jewish parents, spouses and children.
With proudly liberal instincts toward inclusion and against judgementalism, the project considered Conservative movement policies, Halakha, historical and theological views of interfaith relations and personal accounts gathered from intermarried Jews and their non-Jewish partners. Since intermarriage is unlikely to decline, and as no one in recorded history ever caught flies with vinegar, these authors conclude nothing can be gained from punitive, exclusionary policies. They believe the best hope for renewing the commitment of intermarried Jews is to welcome them and honor, not condemn, their families.
To this end, the authors devise a new term for non-Jews who support the Jewish life of their families and practice no other religion: k’rovei Yisrael, which they render as “relative or friend of Israel, close to the Jews.” They hope this semi-official designation will seem more welcoming to a KY (as the authors refer to them) and prompt synagogues to appreciate the role of these non-Jews.
Every non-Orthodox pulpit rabbi knows plenty of KYs, and we should all thank God for them. The authors seem on the right track in wishing to support such families on a difficult journey. This pamphlet’s weakness is the modesty of its scope. It is content to address the easiest problem in intermarriage: the minority of families forging Jewish life within synagogues. But what of the large majority of families that do not fit this encouraging picture, but who fall out of Am Yisrael altogether? This book on “intermarriage and Conservative Judaism” does not address this more challenging problem. I encourage the Tiferet Project to tackle the tougher questions next.
Rhetorically, this work is solid if typical writing-by-committee: clear, a bit bland, somewhere between modest and timid.