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This question has come up at our temple. I am the non jew parent of my daughter who is going to have a bat mitzvah. I do want to have an Aliyah and really appreciate this article. Does the URJ leave this up to temple to decide or do they require that a non jew cannot have an aliyah?
Good question. The URJ (specifically, the CCAR – the Reform rabbis’ association) writes guidelines, answers to religious questions (known as “responsa”) which look at questions just like yours. Their suggestion (circa 1983) was that there are many ways a non-Jewish parent can participate in a bar/bat mitzvah service, but having an aliyah was not one of them. (A 1994 responsa also gave the same answer; I’m not aware of any more recent than that saying otherwise.)
That said, it’s left up to the congregation to decide. Ask your synagogue’s rabbi what their policies are, explain that you want to be involved, and see what they’re able to do for you and your family.
In most Reform and many Conservative congregations, the parents come up and have an aliyah together. This also happens to solve the “mitzvah” problem, because those who are more strict on this issue can always take the understanding that the aliyah is really enacted by the Jewish member of the couple. This is similar to allowing all of the children an aliyah on Simchat Torah. A child can’t really have an aliyah, so they bring up all the children and at least one adult, while solves the Jewish legal problem while allowing the children to participate in a special moment. Since many Jewish-Jewish couples also share an aliyah, this does not differentiate an interfaith couple or embarrass them in any way, so I personally think it’s a good solution.
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