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Letter to the Congregation

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June 29, 2010

Letter to the members of The Temple-Tifereth Israel of Cleveland, Ohio, January 20, 2010.

Dear Friends,

I am writing about a subject of considerable interest, significance and sensitivity--rabbinic and cantorial officiation at wedding ceremonies of interfaith couples.

This issue touches the lives of many people. It is, by far, the hardest one that rabbis and cantors confront as we seek, simultaneously, to embrace our congregants and their loved ones at pivotal life moments, remain faithful to the principles of Jewish tradition as we understand them, and contribute to the future of the Jewish people. No stance, however carefully considered and sensitively explained, can address every situation, meet every need, or be universally welcomed.

Following deep and extended reflection and heartfelt, mutually respectful dialogue between the two of us, and with our Temple clergy colleagues, Rabbi Klein and I have reached a decision that we want to share with you. We are available to officiate at Jewish wedding ceremonies for interfaith couples in our congregational family who are committed to raising Jewish children, creating a Jewish home, and participating in the life of the Jewish community.

All of us who are privileged to serve as your clergy strive to act with integrity and compassion. We are equally aware of the sadness and disappointment that declining to marry a couple can cause and we care deeply about the happiness and wellbeing of engaged couples, their families and the Jewish People. We share a vision of a warm, welcoming, and inclusive congregation and desire to reach out to and assist the members of every Temple household, even if we do so in different ways.

Rabbi Klein and I are profoundly grateful for the support and understanding of our clergy colleagues as we take this step, and we are honored to show them the same respect and regard. We hope that our decision will enable us to draw many couples closer to Judaism and our congregation.

Rabbi Klein will devote the March Temple Times "From the Rabbi's Desk" column to a description and explanation of the thought process through which he arrived at his own decision in this matter. In the meanwhile, please feel free to share with either of us, or with any of our clergy colleagues, any comments, questions, or concerns you may have.

L'shalom u'veracha – In peace and blessing,

Richard A. Block
Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Richard A. Block

Rabbi Richard A. Block is Senior Rabbi of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Cleveland, Ohio. He was ordained and awarded a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1982.

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