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    Mixed marriages & shule boards – Ask the rabbi

    Q. May a Jew who has married out of the faith be a member of a synagogue board of management?

    man-womanA. The Torah (Deut. 7:3) prohibits intermarriage. Maimonides codifies this as the rule (Hilchot Issurei Bi’ah 12:1).

    Nonetheless, a Jew who has “married out” remains Jewish and when he dies may be buried as a Jew.

    The Talmud (Sanh. 44a) is clear that an Israelite, though he has transgressed, is still an Israelite and is obligated to observe the mitzvot, but most congregations deny him any honours because his marriage has offended against what the synagogue stands for.

    This policy is endorsed by Saadya Ga’on (Otzar HaGe’onim) who says that a person’s communal status depends on his birth or conversion, regardless of his degree of observance.

    Rabbi Judah Greenwald (Zichron Yehudah, vol. 1, no. 45) finds no strict rule against calling such a person to the Torah but adds that a community may and should choose to impose sanctions on him.

    Until recent times it was unthinkable for a person who had married out to seek to join a synagogue board, but now that it does occasionally happen, a congregation has a right to deny him membership of the board as a matter of principle and policy.

    Some synagogues refuse even to let such a person be a member of the congregation. In 1945, Chief Rabbi JH Hertz and the London Beth Din sought to introduce such a rule in the United Synagogue in London but the United Synagogue did not formally accept their ruling.

    Their basis was a technicality that Hertz had not acted as Chief Rabbi, in which case his rabbinical rulings would be binding on the United Synagogue, but as chairman of the Beth Din, whose decisions at that time were not automatically followed by the United Synagogue.

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