Are you or is someone you know looking for Jewish clergy to officiate at an interfaith wedding? While some rabbis and cantors officiate at interfaith weddings, not all do. For some couples, finding clergy to officiate or co-officiate (perform the wedding along with a clergy member from another faith) an interfaith wedding may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. With adequate time and patience, an officiant of quality can be found.
For couples looking for Jewish clergy to officiate at their interfaith wedding, InterfaithFamily can be an invaluable resource. Just go to interfaithfamily.com/findarabbi and fill out the officiation request form, and someone from the closest region where InterfaithFamily has a staff member in proximity to you will email you, free of charge, a curated list of rabbis and cantors in the area where the wedding will take place who are a good fit for the type of wedding you are planning. If there aren’t any rabbis or cantors available in your area to officiate at your wedding, InterfaithFamily can recommend Jewish clergy that may be willing to travel to accommodate your needs. They even refer rabbis to officiate internationally at interfaith weddings.
If you need it, InterfaithFamily will provide you with personalized assistance—by phone or email—and answer any questions you may have about interfaith weddings, clergy, etc. If you live in a community that has an InterfaithFamily/Your Community office (currently IFF has offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, DC, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area—as well as an affiliate in Cleveland), one of the IFF/Your Community Directors (who are all rabbis) would be happy to meet with you in person.
Potential Conditions/Requirements for Officiating
You should be aware that many rabbis and cantors may have conditions for a couple to fulfill or consider prior to agreeing to officiate. For example, some rabbis and cantors may require one, or more than one, of the following to take place: a promise to raise any children the couple may have in the future as Jewish; enrollment in an introductory Judaism class beginning prior to the wedding — either for the partner who is not Jewish, or perhaps for both partners; no co-officiation with a clergy person from another faith tradition; a ceremony that does not occur in a place of worship of another religion; membership in the rabbi or cantor’s synagogue if they are affiliated with one.
Many rabbis and cantors who do not officiate at interfaith weddings (either because they choose not to do so or because the movement they belong to does not allow them to do so) will refer you to someone who does or lend a sympathetic ear and offer a welcome for you and your spouse-to-be into their community. No one Jewish officiant or even many officiants stand for their entire movement or affiliating associations and institutions.
Jewish Denominations’ Policies on Officiating at Intermarriages
Each Jewish movement has a different policy on intermarriage, so it is helpful to know what movement your desired rabbi or cantor hails from. Here is a summary of each movement’s policy on officiation at intermarriages:
• Reconstructionist movement: The Reconstructionist movement leaves it up to the conscience of each rabbi whether or not to officiate at interfaith weddings. Reconstructionist rabbis are not permitted to co-officiate at interfaith weddings with clergy of another faith, although some do.
• Reform movement: The CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis, to which Reform rabbis belong) discourages its members from officiating at interfaith weddings, but doesn’t forbid them from doing so. Many Reform rabbis and cantors will officiate at interfaith weddings, and a few will co-officiate with clergy of another faith.
• Secular Humanistic Jewish movement: Nearly all Secular Humanistic rabbis and cantors will officiate at interfaith weddings. Many will co-officiate with clergy of another faith. Their tradition, however, is to offer a ceremony that has limited or no “God” references.
• Jewish Renewal: No formal policy on interfaith officiating exists among Renewal rabbis, but many rabbis in the movement will perform interfaith weddings, and some will co-officiate with non-Jewish clergy.
• Conservative movement: Conservative rabbis and cantors are forbidden to officiate at interfaith weddings. If they officiate, they risk losing their membership in the Conservative rabbinical or cantorial association.
• Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox movements: These rabbis and cantors are forbidden to officiate at an interfaith wedding.
An ordained rabbi, cantor, priest or minister qualifies to perform weddings under state, federal and many international legal systems. You should consult the courts of the jurisdiction you’re getting married in for restrictions and limitations on who may officiate at your wedding.
Reprinted with permission from InterfaithFamily: supporting interfaith families exploring Jewish life. Sign up for their newsletters here.