Sen. Lieberman: Intermarriage is kosher
Binyamin L. Jolkovsky - The Jerusalem Post -September 20, 2000
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NEW YORK - Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, has declared intermarriage permissible for Jews. This, as Jewish educational institutions from the far-left Reconstructionst to the fervently Orthodox are spending tens of millions of dollars on educational programs and other means in an attempt to prevent Jewry from self-destructing.
Lieberman, who recently changed his long-time self-description from "Orthodox" to "observant" after cyber columnist Matt Drudge reported he was caught eating on Tisha Be'av, made the declaration Friday on Don Imus's syndicated radio talk show.
Lieberman was asked whether Judaism places a ban on "interracial or interreligious marriage or dating or that sort of thing." Lieberman answered, "No, there is no ban whatsoever. Certainly not on interracial. And not on interreligious."
The fact that Jews marry among themselves, he went on to say, stems from a "natural tendency among a lot of Jews, as there is among a lot of Christians and a lot of ethnic groups" to "marry within, to keep the faith going."
As could be imagined, the reaction was swift in coming.
There is a "clear and irrevocable Torah prohibition" against a Jew intermarrying, Rabbi Avi Shafran, spokesman for the Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America, told JewishWorldReview.com. "It has nothing to do with race, as anyone from any ethnicity can become a Jew if he or she is sincerely motivated and willing to undergo halachic conversion."
While Shafran has defended Lieberman from religious critics and maintains he should not be held "responsible to present the image of perfect Jewish observance," because he is "running for vice president, not chief rabbi," he said that with Lieberman's "new prominence, he must be very concerned not to seriously mislead anyone, Jew or non-Jew, about Jewish religious belief or practice."
Before speaking to issues like the ones he discussed with Imus, the rabbi added, Lieberman "should have had a long and serious talk with his rabbi. He still can, and should." Lieberman's rabbi, Barry Freundel of Washington, D.C., was unavailable for comment.
More flustered, was Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, of which Lieberman is a board member, who said, "We are not to be held responsible for our board members' beliefs or actions."
Similarly surprised was Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the (Conservative) United Synagogue of America. "I do believe our tradition is quite clear that Jews are expected to marry Jews," he said. "I'm really not sure of the context or prism [Lieberman] may been have been thinking his answer through. From my understanding of Halacha, and even in our movement, intermarriage is certainly not permitted." Lieberman's position, he said, is "perplexing."