The decision by a rabbi about whether to officiate at the wedding of an intermarried couple is a difficult one. Rabbi Kominsky chooses to officiate at intermarriages where he feels that the couples’s relationship is supportive of the Jewish future. As he explains in his article, he officiates at marriages where the non-Jewish spouse is willing to support the Jewish partner’s religious identity, live in a Jewish home, and bring up Jewish children. Reprinted with permission from Interfaithfamily.com.
It usually starts with a phone call. The voice on the line is very tentative, afraid of being rebuffed or giving offense: “Somebody gave me your name and… umm… do you officiate at interfaith marriages?”
My reply–“Sometimes. Can you tell me a little about your situation?”–elicits a sigh of relief, followed by a torrent of information, feelings, and concerns. Once we’ve worked through the preliminaries on the phone–the rabbi will be the only officiant; I don’t do weddings on Shabbat; and yes, that includes Saturday at 7:30 in June; the date and place are viable for me–we schedule an appointment so that I can meet face-to-face with both partners and talk.
Does This Relationship Support a Jewish Future?
We meet and have an excellent conversation. After an hour or so of careful questions and answers, and if it becomes clear to me that this is a relationship that will support a Jewish future, one I can say a blessing over, I will agree to do the wedding. Just as we’re finishing up, that anxious tone reappears in one of their voices: “Do you mind if I ask you one more question?”
“Not at all.”
“We’ve been turned down by a dozen rabbis all over the state. How come you’re willing to do interfaith marriages and they’re not?”
It’s a fair question, one I’ve been asked repeatedly over 28 years as a rabbi. Why do I officiate when so many of my colleagues do not? The answer comes in two parts. The first question is, Can I officiate at such a marriage? Only if that question is answered in the positive, does the second question arise, should I?