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Last month, I blogged about Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, a Conservative synagogue outside of Philadelphia, that updated its constitution to be more explicitly welcoming of interfaith families.
Yesterday, the Jewish Exponent ran an article that looked at the more personal side of the decision. They interviewed Kari Kohn, a Presbyterian, who, with her husband, Joshua, is raising two Jewish kids.
When Kari and Joshua Kohn moved to Bryn Mawr a year ago, they enrolled their two sons, ages 3 and 5, in pre-school at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood. But the interfaith couple had no intention of joining the congregation unless both husband and wife could be counted as members.
But the article doesn’t stop there. It also looks a the personal impact decisions like these may have on a congregation’s clergy.
It mentions two Reform congregations:
Rabbi Eliot Strom of Shir Ami Bucks County Jewish Congregation, a Reform temple in Newtown, reversed a position he’s held for 35 years and will now officiate at interfaith weddings.
Other Reform rabbis are sticking to their positions. Rabbi Gregory Marx of Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen disputed the notion that refusing to officiate at interfaith ceremonies makes his synagogue less welcoming. “It is not whether or not you do the ceremony, it’s how you relate to them, the message that you give and how you explain the reason you don’t officiate,” he said, adding that he’ll allow a justice of the peace to officiate at a ceremony at his congregation and will even attend.
And “a Traditional shul considered to the right of the Conservative movement but not Orthodox”:
“We have such families and we don’t want to see them as something that fell into the cracks of communal life; we want them to feel welcome,” said Rabbi Jean Claude Klein of Shaare Shamayim.
So here are my questions: Does your synagogue include non-Jewish spouses as members? Does your clergy officiate at interfaith marriages? Do you agree with Rabbi Marx’s position? With Rabbi Strom’s reasons?
On a related note, Karen Kushner, our Chief Education Officer, is collecting examples of synagogue policies for non-Jewish partners and family members. Are you counted as a member? Can you take on a leadership position? Are you given ritual honors? [firstname.lastname@example.org]Let her know![/email] Please include the name of your synagogue and city in your response. Thanks!
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