Rabbi Myron Kinberg has used the biblical concept of ger toshav to deal with the issue of mixed marriage.
Rabbi Kinberg, in a lengthy article, describes his initial refusal to officiate at mixed marriages and his growing discomfort with his response. Ultimately, he changed his policy and decided to officiate at mixed marriages where the non-Jewish partner met the criteria of a ger toshav. In the Bible, a ger toshav (resident stranger) was a non-Jew who dwelt among the Jewish people and followed Jewish practice without actually converting to Judaism. Rabbi Kinberg argues that it is appropriate to reinstate this category and to use it, where applicable, in the case of mixed marriage. He defines criteria for a ger toshav including: a commitment to a Jewish home life, participation in Jewish life and tradition, and raising future children as Jews.
Rabbi Kinberg recognizes that such a marriage does not have halachic (Jewish legal) validity. For this reason he does not use a ketubah, but rather a brit nisuen (covenant of marriage) and he changes the traditional wedding vows to read, "keOrech Haim Yehudim," "according to the ways of life of the Jewish people" as opposed to the traditional "kedat Moshe v'Yisrael," "according to the law of Moses and Israel."
Brit Ger Toshav (Covenant of a Resident Stranger)
I, ___________________________ of my own free will without coercion or without being in conflict with any other personal religious orientation, wish to become a ger toshav of the Jewish People. I understand that the privileges, obligations and commitments of a ger toshav are the following:
- to be a non Jewish member of the Jewish community, unreservedly committed to the perpetuation of Judaism in my personal home life.
- to be able to participate equally in all aspects of Jewish life and traditions as would a Jewish person except that I may not formally represent Jewish people in the performance of a religious practice, hold office in the Jewish community, nor be a voting member of the Jewish community.
- to maintain a purely Jewish home environment without the influences of other religious traditions in the home.
- to raise any children I may have as Jews and to bring them into the covenant Jewish peoplehood according to Jewish tradition and to help educate them in the formation of their Jewish identity.
- to participate actively in the Jewish life of my home and community.
- to learn about Jewish life and traditions so that I may participate actively in my Jewish home and communal life.
- to be bound to this covenant as long as my home life and/or children live within the influence of the Jewish community.
Ger Toshav ____________________________
Brit Nisuin (Covenant of Marriage)
On the__________ day of the week, the ______day of _______since the creation of the world as we reckon time here in____________________, the Bride__________________________ daughter of __________________ and the groom _________________ son of __________________________ promised to sanctify their relationship as husband and wife. They have come under the hupah in order to establish a Jewish home according to the traditions of Moses and Israel. To insure the sanctity of their relationship will be linked to the sanctity of Judaism and the Jewish people in their home and communal life, the _____________, ___________________________ has vowed to become a ger toshav, as defined by the attached Covenant of Ger Toshav.
Therefore, the groom and bride have also promised each other to strive throughout their lives to achieve an openness which will enable them to share their thoughts, their feelings, and their experiences, to be sensitive at all times to each other's needs; to attain mutual intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual fulfillment and to work for the perpetuation of Judaism and of the Jewish People in their home, in their family life, and in their communal endeavors.
This marriage has been authorized also by the civil authorities of____________________________. It is valid and binding.
Witness__________________ Bride______________________ Witness__________________ Groom_____________________
Used by permission of Alice Kinberg