Rabbi Miriam Jerris graduated from the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism and ordained as a rabbi in 2001. She has been married to her Catholic born, Humanist husband for more than thirty-two years. There have never been any restrictions on admission to leadership or rabbinic programs for those applicants who were intermarried or were in intercultural relationships. Humanistic Judaism has been a beacon of radical inclusion for more than half a century.
I was gratified to read that Hebrew College had changed their guidelines for admission into their rabbinic program. From the very beginning, Humanistic Judaism, nearing its 60th anniversary, embraced complete and full inclusion of the intermarried into our community as members, lay and professional leaders, including rabbis. In 1985, when we began our Leadership Program and ordaining leaders, the guidelines for admission were based on the qualifications of the applicant. When we launched our rabbinic program, the same guidelines were followed.
When I was admitted into the rabbinic program after more than a decade of being an ordained leader in our movement, I was married to my current husband, who was born Catholic, and identifies as a Humanist. I always felt that my personal experience enabled me to be a better rabbi because I understood what it was like to be marginalized and not fully accepted. The attitude of much of the mainstream Jewish community did not increase the number of Jews marrying Jews. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
I understand that the Secular Humanistic Jewish movement is small, so we are rarely quoted in the press. However, size should not negate the vision of our movement, nor should it overlook the compassion and acceptance we offer the intermarried as they are and were turned away or offered a lesser status by other Jewish organizations or leaders.