While affirming “the importance of encouraging in-marriage,” that is marriage between Jews, the Reform rabbinate in the United States called this week for a new focus on engaging intermarried couples to bring them closer to the Jewish community.

“Intermarriage is a given” in American Jewish life, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represents some 2,000 Reform rabbis, declared at its 121st annual convention in San Francisco. Therefore, the issue “should be approached with the goal of engaging intermarried families in Jewish life and living,” the CCAR said in a statement released to the press on Monday.

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Rabbis “can and should work to improve the effectiveness of their efforts to encourage intermarried people to embrace Judaism for themselves and their children,” the statement added.

One of the ways to achieve that might be to institute formal blessings and prayers for life-cycle events in the lives of intermarried couples, according to a report submitted to the convention.

“When a Jew marries a Jew, there is a greater likelihood of Jewish continuity,” said the CCAR’s president Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, from congregation B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom in Homewood, Illinois. “But in the case of intermarriage, the opportunity for Jewish continuity is significant, especially if there is effective rabbinic leadership. Today we focus on the very positive fact that rabbinic outreach to intermarried families makes a difference in bringing intermarried families into our synagogues and Jewish life.”

The convention also concluded that “debating the question of rabbis officiating at ceremonies of couples who are intermarrying is simply not a productive conversation,” according to the statement.

“We recognize there is a diversity of carefully considered views and practices among Reform rabbis when it comes to officiation,” according to Rabbi Charles Kroloff, chairman of the umbrella body’s Task Force on the Challenges of Intermarriage for the Reform Rabbi, from Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, New Jersey.

“It is a deeply personal matter of conscience for rabbis. The CCAR is here to help rabbis develop and articulate their approach to embracing and bringing people into Jewish life,” Kroloff said.

AP contributed to this report.

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