Robbing The Bride and Groom

I have been meaning to write about this for a couple of days now. This story troubles me.

Rabbi Barry Tuchman has no congregation, no ties to a recognized Jewish movement and an ordination that was far outside the norm for American Jewish clergy.

But the interfaith couples who contact him don’t want to see his diploma. They want to know whether he’s willing to marry them. And Rabbi Barry, as he calls himself, is ready to oblige.

He officiates anywhere: in churches, alongside Christian clergy, on the Jewish Sabbath and at Roman Catholic weddings. A student of Shamanism, he can perform American Indian rituals, too.

“What I do,” Tuchman said, “is throw the liturgy out the window.”

Interfaith couples whose rabbis won’t marry them are going to the fringes of American Judaism to find someone who will. And there are plenty of rabbis for hire.

Rabbis with unconventional, even dubious, credentials will create ceremonies that can look Jewish, even if they’re not. Fees can run into the thousands of dollars, but business is booming. The rabbis have more work than they can handle.

“It’s religion in America for a new generation,” said Rabbi Richard Hirsh, executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, which represents rabbis in his movement. “It’s pretty much an individual consumer culture of professional services. They are used to getting the services that they want.”

The intermarriage rate for U.S. Jews has been above 40 percent since at least the 1990s, according to researchers for the 2001 National Jewish Population Survey. As the rate has climbed, so too has pressure on pulpit rabbis to perform the ceremonies. Advocates for interfaith families say officiating at the weddings can increase the odds that couples will raise their children Jewish.

Most rabbis aren’t convinced.

The Conservative and Orthodox movements bar rabbis from performing the ceremonies.

For the full story please click here. Do you really want a hired gun to perform your marriage. And more importantly, who gets smicha to become rich.

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  1. Mark September 25, 2007 at 11:59 am

    “One often follows the other.”

    Often doesn’t mean always.

  2. Kol Ra'ash Gadol September 20, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    BRinging comfortto the parents for the wedding? Do you think that dual clergy will do that? Or will it just make each side equally unhappy?
    As I mentioned, it’s not possible to doa jewish wedding if one of the partners aren’t Jewish; any rabbi who says it is, is acting in ignorance – or lying. Jewish weddings are a contractual arrangement between two Jews according to the laws of Moses and Israel.
    If one of the parties is not subject to the laws of Moses and Israel, then how can the marriage contract be effected? It can’t.
    There’s nothing wrong with people who aren’t Jewish. They’re just as lovable as anyone else, just as lovely and noble, and kind and smart -that’s why it’s the dating stage where one has to be careful about who one is with. By the time you fall in love it’s too late.

    If it matters enough to someone to be Jewish, to have a rabbi at the wedding, then it should matter enough to have a Jewish home. To have a Jewish home, it’s very verydifficult if one partner isn’t Jewish. The study that came out last year reconfirmed what we already knew anecdotally: how Jewish you are depends almost entirely on who you have around you. If you want your kids to be Jewish, it’s important to have a jewish spouse and for them -and you- to have a Jewish friends and a community.
    The rabbis were no fools; they were right about the necessity of a minyan.
    BY having dual clergy, you aren’t making people feel better, you’re lying to both the people who are being married by saying that there isn’t really any difference between one marriage ceremony and another.
    IMO, if you can’t decide it would be wise to put off the ceremony until someone picks, or have a civil ceremony, which is essentially the idea underlying dual clergy; that the marriage is a civil act, and not a religious one.
    I know this sounds harsh, but I understand Judaism to be something that the world needs to continue, that we have a mission, and that that mission cannot be fulfilled if we disappear, and I also believe that it’s evil to lie to people and give them to understand that it doesn’t make a difference.

    I don’t think that people who are intermarried are evil – in fact, if one doesn’t commit to the idea that Judaism matters, than I agree that it’s foolish to insist on not marrying out. If you don’t think Judaism matters, staying a Jew out of nostalgia or some misplaced guilt over Hitler is a waste of time, but then I don’t think that one should want a rabbi there. And I do think it’s a darn shame for any children who might come along later, as they often do.
    And by the way, what Fashionista said about Catholics who marry out – that’s also true for jews. They aren’t Jewishly regarded as married.

  3. Jack's Shack September 19, 2007 at 4:20 am

    I thought we were discussing wedding ceremonies alone.

    One often follows the other.

  4. Mark September 19, 2007 at 3:32 am

    “If there are no children involved it is one thing, but incorporate kids and you have a much larger issue.”

    You mean that they’re bastards?


    Okay, I couldn’t resist, but I know what you mean. I meant at the wedding, not in the raising of the children and I thought we were discussing wedding ceremonies alone.

  5. Jack's Shack September 18, 2007 at 5:08 am


    Dual clergy is fraught with all sorts of issues. It makes me uncomfortable. Let’s look at one aspect.

    If there are no children involved it is one thing, but incorporate kids and you have a much larger issue.

    I do not believe in raising children to observe two different religions. In my experience that is usually what happens in these situations. Others may see it differently.

  6. Mark September 17, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    I am not a fan of weddings that have dual clergy performing. Pick one side and run with it.”

    What if they are but decide to have dual clergy to keep their parents happy?

    Is that a bad thing?

    If one thinks it is, what if one of those parents was dying and wanted to see their child married by a rabbi/priest/minister?

    Would bringing comfort to that parent be a bad thing?

    Would God care? (assuming there is a god?)

    Wouldn’t it be a nice thing to do and isn’t that what being a mensch is?

  7. Jack's Shack September 17, 2007 at 3:22 am


    It is not an urban legend.


    This probably should become a whole post because it has potential to be misunderstood. It is a personal issue, but we all have our lines in the sand.

    I am not a fan of weddings that have dual clergy performing. Pick one side and run with it.

    I may make this into a longer post later on.

    I think they’re throwing, not just ritual, but everything, out of the window.

    That is part of what bothers me. It is like they have constructed a potpourri affair that bears little resemblance to the “real thing.”

  8. Kol Ra'ash Gadol September 17, 2007 at 1:56 am

    What I want to know is *how* these hired guns are doing what they’re doing? I mean, Idon’t really ant to know – I don’t care, I think they’re throwing, not just ritual, but everything, out of the window. But, I wonder how they do it, because every time I have to do a wedding in a new place, I have to jump through a bunch of hoops to do it; E.G. I just agreed to do a wedding near NOLA. In the area (parish, ironically) in which I am doing the wedding, I have to provide credentials from the ordaining body, and a notarized letter swearing to authorization from a legitimate body of a religious institution. What are these guys using as such? Even the Reform movement puts limits on dual officiating with other, non-Jewish, clergy (which is, Jewishly, at least, religiously senseless. Since Christian marriage is a sacrament, and Jewish marriage (not a sacrament) is a contractual agreement according to laws that one member of the couple isn’t bound by).

  9. Mark September 16, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    I’m sensing a “Who is a Jew?”-type debate in the offing.

    My position on THAST subject being well-known here it won’t come as any surprise that I support interfaith m,arriage.

    My wife (NOT a Jew) and I ( a Jew, but not a Jew in the eyes of some , whose opinion means squat to me) were married by a rabbi with a congregation who will officiate at inter-faith marriages.

    We both wanted a Jewiosh service and knew it would mean no end of angst for my parents (both Jews but one, my mother, not a Jew in the eyes of many whose opinion means squat to me). He would not officiate at a wedding on Shabbos (not that I asked, I am enough of a Jew to know that is not done).

    We were reminded of what it means to live as a couple committed to each other, my parents and especially my father were ecstatic to see that I and my wife are interested in maintaining my Jewish identity, and a good time was had by all, including our non-Jewish guests. And who could gripe about that?

    Oh yeah. Stupid question. Someone always will gripe about those of us who aren’t “really” Jewish.

    By the way, we did have to pay his expenses but then, if someone wanted me to work on Sunday they’d have to pay me, too.

    It’s a different world than it was five hundred or five thopusand years ago where the local rabbi was also employed at some other craft and served a small village or community.

    I would, however, draw the line at smicha JUST to get rich. But are they getting rich, really, or making a living performing a service that brings joy to many?

  10. fashionista cat in a zero gravity shoe-store September 16, 2007 at 6:29 am

    Corrigenda: Protestants would _not_ be able to marry in a Catholic church.

  11. fashionista cat in a zero gravity shoe-store September 16, 2007 at 6:28 am

    This must be somewhat an urban legend directed at disturbing people. Roman Catholics may not marry outside Christianity for their marriage to be canonic (i.e. legal in terms of Catholic law) and only Catholics may marry at Catholic churches – even Protestants, being fellow Xtians – would be able marry in a Catholic church. If need be, I can look up the paragraphs in the Codex Iuris Canonici (book of Catholic law concerning organizational, liturgical and sociological structures; abiding by those laws is mandatory for Catholics, and particularly the laws regarding marriage are strictly observed / supervised). A Catholic that married a Jew would remain unmarried in the eyes of the Church and would live in a concubinal state.

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