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RCJC ENewsletter 06-28-2012

Resource Center for Jewish Clergy

Dear Friends,

In our continuing effort to assist you in your work with interfaith families, has developed resources specifically for you. Aware that there are multiple demands on your time, we attempt to provide materials that make your welcome to interfaith families explicit and that you do not have to develop yourself.

New Resources for Jewish Clergy

These new resources available to clergy only in our Resource Center for Jewish Clergy aim to aid you in your efforts to both create warm connections with interfaith couples and to deepen the families' engagement with Judaism:

  • For newly married couples, we have created two template letters for you to customize and send, one about putting up a mezuzah, the other about having a Shabbat dinner. The letters will encourage couples to both reconnect with you and with the powerful Jewish moments of their ceremony, giving them resources to take a next step into Judaism. These templates may also be adapted to stay in touch with new interfaith parents after a brit milah or baby naming.
  • For engaged interfaith couples and their families, we have created a way to explain your boundaries about officiating at an interfaith wedding, or not co-officiating with clergy from another religion, or not officiating on Shabbat. This explanation model relies on expressing respect for their decisions and asking for their respect in return.
  • For Conservative clergy, a list of suggested ways to help interfaith families perceive the sincerity of your desire to welcome them in your synagogues.

We have several other new resources that may be useful to you on other parts of our site:

  • For engaged couples, we have Choosing an Interfaith Ketubah. The process of choosing a ketubah will encourage the couple to clarify their religious identities to each other, a topic you may cover in pre-marital counseling.
  • For intermarried couples and their friends and family, there is a curriculum, complete with handouts, for a class on the History of Intermarriage in the Bible.
  • For all who want to insure that their institution's policies and websites communicate a welcome to interfaith couples and families, we have collected samples from congregations for you to emulate.
  • For all who want to publicize their welcome to interfaith couples and families, add the badge to identify your synagogue as a welcoming place. (If your congregation is not part of our Network, you can add it.)

New Articles for Jewish Clergy

Since our last email newsletter to you, we've added four new articles in the "for clergy only" RCJC. For clergy who continue to evolve their position on officiation, we offer:

  • Open Hearts and an Open Door: A Different Jewish Response to the Challenge of Interfaith Marriage
    Rabbi Howard Berman explains his shift to a new position on officiation that is born out of personal struggles with the issue and pastoral experience as a rabbi for almost forty years. He realized he could play a critical and even decisive role in determining the position of the Jewish community toward interfaith couples.
  • How Rabbi's Position on Interfaith Weddings Evolved
    Congregants, parents of an engaged couple, said to Rabbi Mark Schiftman, "Our child grew up here, was called to the Torah here and became confirmed here. This place and this faith hold special meaning to our child. Don't you think our child should be able to have their rabbi represent their faith at their wedding ceremony in an active and meaningful way?" Following that conversation, he decided to co-officiate with Christian clergy for the first time.
  • Intermarriage Officiation: Why I Have Decided to Officiate at Intermarriages
    Rabbi Andrea London confronts the need to balance tradition and the facts of modernity, concluding that she will embrace change in order to promote continuity. She will officiate for interfaith couples, making minor changes to the ceremony when the couple is comfortable with a commitment to have a Jewish home.
  • Shabbat Weddings Revisited: The Pro Side for a Change
    For clergy who continue to evolve their position on Saturday evening weddings, Rabbi Dr. Reeve Robert Brenner offers a detailed examination of the minhagim on the timing of weddings on Shabbat, including references to the Shulchan Aruch, the Polish talmudist Rabbi Moses Isseries and Rabbi Walter Jacob. We are pleased to reprint this article with permission from the Reform Jewish Quarterly. Brenner concludes that Saturday weddings scheduled before the end of Shabbat are not only allowed but should be encouraged. In this era, when guests and extended family may not be Jewish, he suggests that beginning the celebration with Ma'ariv and Havdallah would allow those guests to personally experience the beauty and meaningfulness of Jewish tradition.

New Group For Rabbis

There's a new private group on our Network just for Jewish clergy who grew up in interfaith families. Discuss the unique strengths and challenges you bring to the rabbinate. Follow this link to get to the group, then click "request membership" on the right side, below the image, if you would like to join the conversations. All discussions will remain private, accessible only to those who are members of the group.

Join the RCJC

To access our "for clergy only" resources — and discuss them confidentially with colleagues — you need to be a member of the Resource Center for Jewish Clergy. If you're not yet a member, here are the steps to join:

  • Fill out our Jewish Clergy survey at (If you're not sure whether you've taken the survey already, please fill it out again, as we're asking new questions about the kids of life cycle services you're able to provide.)
  • Join the Network by visiting Confirm your membership by replying to the email you'll receive.
  • Edit your personal information on the page to which you'll be directed. Be sure to indicate that you are a rabbi or a cantor in the "profession" section.
  • We'll then send you an invitation to join the RCJC. Click the link in the invitation and you'll be a member!

This may seem complicated, but it's easy to do. The Network also has many features that can help you attract participants to your organization and programs, as well as keep in touch with your community members.

Officiation Referral Service offers a free, high-quality Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service. It's not just for wedding officiation; we help couples find clergy for counseling, conversion, bris and baby naming, and all other life cycle needs. Demand for the service has grown steadily — we've been averaging almost 200 requests each month! If you'd like to know more about our service, or add your own name to it, please email

If you don't officiate yourself but refer couples to others, or if a couple at a distant location asks for your help, we'd be very grateful if you suggested that the couple use our service. All they need to do is fill out the form at

If there are other resources you'd like to see here, conversations you'd like help starting or topics you would like to see fleshed out, let us know. We're here to help and support you!


Karen Kushner,
Chief Education Officer

Hebrew for "Set Table," also known as the Code of Jewish Law, it is the most authoritative legal code of Judaism, authored by Rabbi Yosef Karo in 1563. Hebrew for "covenant of circumcision," a ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old. It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit." Hebrew for "separation" or "distinction," the ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath on Saturday evenings. A custom or accepted tradition or group of traditions in Judaism. Singular is "minhag." Hebrew for "doorpost," it now refers to a small box containing a scroll (of the Hebrew text of the Shema prayer) which is affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes. Strictly speaking, mezuzah only refers to the scroll itself, not the case in which it's housed. The Jewish Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. A member of the Jewish clergy who leads a congregation in songful prayer. ("Hazzan" in Hebrew.) Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them. Hebrew for "covenant," often referring to the ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old ("brit milah" - "covenant of circumcision"). It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit." Also known as ma'ariv, the evening prayer service.
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