Word of mouth publicity is no longer sufficient in the age of hyper connectivity to spread the message of your welcome. Your website will increasingly serve as the primary introduction of your community to potential members.
Focus groups report that people are looking for others like them and an atmosphere of warmth and acceptance. With intermarriage rates at 50% and more for young Jewish adults, two thirds of the future pool of prospective members will be interfaith families. To attract the attention of interfaith families that are searching on the Internet for a community will require you to add new elements to assure them that you really are a welcoming institution.
Recommendation 1: Say clearly and explicitly on your home page that your community includes and welcomes interfaith families and looks forward to engaging them in your activities.
It is not enough to say you are “a diverse congregation” or that “everyone is welcome.” These statements are too subtle and couples who are anxious about their reception will not read them as a sincere welcome. The best websites unambiguously refer to those who are “intermarried,” say they include “interfaith families,” “mixed-faith couples,” or “both partners of interfaith marriages.” And make this statement visible where visitors can see it on your home page without needing to scroll down or click through to another page. Try to avoid using “non-Jewish spouses and partners,” as people do not typically identify themselves as “non-Jewish ” any more than Jews identify as "non-Christian." We recommend “spouses or partners who are not Jewish” over “non-Jewish spouses and partners.”
Here are several examples of congregational website home pages that make an explicit welcome to people in interfaith relationships:
- Congregation Ohr Tzafon (Reform)
We are an inclusive community, opening doors to people of all ages, to varied kinds of families, to those who are intermarried, to those who have chosen Judaism, to all individuals and families who strive to create a Jewish home.
- Congregation Ahavas Chesed (Conservative)
The synagogue welcomes both traditional and non-traditional family units. Specifically mixed-faith couples are encouraged to experience our nurturing environment and see the support that is available.
- Netivot Shalom (Conservative)
Our mission is to inspire Jewish practices among individuals and families who are considering Judaism, are intermarried, or are Jewish.
- Congregation B’nai Harim (Reform)
Grass Valley, CA
We embrace traditional and non-traditional families, singles, and both partners of interfaith marriages.
- Temple Bat Yam (Reform)
Ocean City, MD
Temple Bat Yam is a Reform Jewish congregation committed to the ideals and eternal truths of Judaism and to maintaining the traditions and lessons of our rich heritage while respecting the realities and integrity of interfaith marriages and interfaith families. It is our stated desire to invite and encourage participation by all family members and spouses in our congregational life, despite religious diversity within a household. We believe the spiritual interests of both our congregation and those of our interfaith couples and families are better served by inclusion within the nurturing community of Temple Bat Yam.
- North Country Reform Temple (Reform)
Glen Cove, NY
People of all backgrounds will find a home in our congregation. Some of our members come from traditionally observant homes, while others have lead a more secular lifestyle. Many of our most active members are Jews by choice and we welcome the participation of parents and partners who continue in their own faith as they raise a family in ours. Those who have felt cut off from religious life for a variety of reasons have a found a spiritual home at NCRT. Our temple family reaches out to everyone - including you.
The following two have warm and welcoming language but have yet to move from "non-Jewish spouse or partner" to the recommended "spouse or partner who is not Jewish."
- Havurah Shir Hadash (Renewal)
We are an extended family of Jews by birth and by choice, non-Jewish spouses and partners, and friends from many different spiritual paths who have come to be with us.
- Kol HaLev (Reconstructionist)
Kol HaLev ... serves a diverse population, reaching out to and inviting self-identifying Jews and their loved ones who may be independent of other Jewish affiliations. We welcome inter-faith families as well as non-Jews who want to join our explorations of Jewish traditions and the crafting of a meaningful life.
Recommendation 2: Post photographs that include people of diverse heritage on your website’s home page.
Photographs convey your welcoming message in a single glance. Studies show that visitors to your website may only spend seconds before they move on to another site. It is important to grab their attention with explicit statements and photographs which tell them that there are others like them in your community.
Too many synagogues inadvertently exclude potential members by showing only pictures of middle and upper middle class, white, Ashkenazi, heterosexual, married families with children. We recommend that you include pictures of multicultural families or groups of children, as well as of gay couples, families with adopted children and single parent families.
Here are a few examples of congregational websites that use photos that effectively demonstrate their welcome to interfaith families:
Temple Israel (Reform)
Temple Emeth (Conservative)
Chestnut Hill, MA
Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley (Reform)