This morning I want to update you on a few different matters.
* As you know if you have tried to access our Shabbat and holiday morning hybrid services on Zoom in recent weeks, we have been running into a variety of different tech problems. Some of the problems were with our equipment and some with our Verizon internet going out. The Verizon problems have seemingly been fixed with the replacement of the power supply unit but we are still working on coming up with a combination of audio and video equipment that is reliable, but also unobtrusive for those attending services in person. We have arranged for a trial of a camera and microphone system called a Meeting Owl which should arrive soon and we will test it out this coming Shabbat and/or the subsequent one. The only way we can really know whether a particular equipment setup meets the needs of those participating from home is to use it during a service, so your feedback if you are participating on Zoom is very helpful to us as we figure this out -- and so is your patience.
* A few weeks ago I gave a class on the debate over intermarriage in the Conservative movement. A few days after that class, an article I co authored which advocated that we do more to include intermarried Jews and their families appeared in eJewishPhilanthropy. Yesterday, the Forward published a long article about Conservative rabbis who are violating the Rabbinical Assembly’s “Standard of Rabbinic Practice” which prohibits officiation at an intermarriage.
If the information contained in the article proves correct, it will be an interesting and challenging moment for the Rabbinical Assembly. Violating a “Standard of Rabbinic Practice” means that the rabbi who does so is subject to expulsion from the RA and within the last couple of years two rabbis were indeed expelled for officiating at intermarriages. Expulsion for this violation is actually fairly rare because generally, when a Conservative rabbi decides to officiate at intermarriages they resign from the RA rather than being expelled. The article states that many RA rabbis are violating this rule “under the radar” but quotes by name only one such rabbi. It should be noted that the paragraph about that particular rabbi contains a major error. While the rabbi in question was indeed ordained at the Conservative seminary in Buenos Aires and is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly, the congregation that he serves is Reform and not Conservative, contrary to what was printed in the Forward article. The other rabbis quoted in the article who are officiating at intermarriages have all resigned from the RA.
In case of any doubt I want to make my position clear. While I support doing everything we can do within halacha to include and welcome all Jews regardless of who they are married to, I do not support rabbinic officiation at intermarriages and have no intention of doing so whether or not the RA ultimately changes its rules.
* Finally I want to note that my message on Monday morning erroneously said that Hazzan Komrad would be officiating services with me this coming Shabbat morning. She has actually rearranged her schedule and added a service next month instead of the one this coming Shabbat. I apologize for the error.
As a reminder, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has established a Ukraine Emergency Fund to meet emergency humanitarian needs. You can find out more and donate here.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian