Woman on laptop

Unplug for Less Doing and More Being

This is why I’m committing to unplug on March 1-2

READ MORE

Ritual Wedding Objects and Garments

Every religion and culture has its unique ritual objects and garments that are part of wedding ceremonies. When planning for your Jewish interfaith wedding you will want to consider which to include. You may choose to include ritual objects and garments from multiple traditions or just Jewish ones. We will explain some of the Jewish ones here. […]

READ MORE

Finding Your Officiant

One of the first decisions a couple has to make in planning for their wedding ceremony is who will officiate.  When planning a Jewish wedding incorporating multiple faith backgrounds, you have a number of options as to who can be your officiant. You may choose to have solely Jewish clergy (a rabbi or cantor—for the […]

READ MORE

What are the Elements of a Jewish Wedding Ceremony

A Jewish wedding has two major sections: erusin (betrothal) and nissuin (marriage). The central part of erusin is the exchange of rings. The central part of nissuin is the seven wedding blessings. Though erusin and nissuin were originally two separate ceremonies, they now take place one immediately after the other, and together they make up […]

READ MORE

The Ketubah/Marriage Contract

What is a Ketubah? A ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract. In ancient times, a ketubah was a legally binding document, written in Aramaic (the vernacular of the time), describing a groom’s “acquiring” of a bride, and stating the amount that the groom would have to pay the bride in case of a divorce. There’s […]

READ MORE
wedding dance

Communication: Talking to Your Partner and Your Families

When planning a wedding, communication is key.  You’ll be communicating with one or more of the following: clergy or other officiant, a wedding planner, florist, caterer, DJ or band, relatives and many others.  But most importantly, you have to communicate with your partner.

READ MORE

Resolutions Your Synagogue Can Make This Rosh Hashanah

By Rabbi Robyn Frisch and Rabbi Malka Packer Just like the approach of the secular new year, the approach of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is a great time to reflect on the past year and to make resolutions about how you can be better in the year ahead. (Click here to read how Jewish […]

READ MORE

Seven Top Rosh Hashanah Song Parodies

If you like cute videos parodying pop songs for the Jewish holidays like I do, then you’ll be happy to learn that they’ve been made not just for Hanukkah and Passover (see my favorites here and here), but for Rosh Hashanah too. So, as we approach the Jewish New Year, here’s a countdown of my seven […]

READ MORE

I’m not an “Interfaith Rabbi”

“Meet Robyn,” my friend, who is Jewish, said with a smile as she introduced me to her Christian daughter-in-law. “She’s an interfaith rabbi.” Ugh! I cringed on the inside—the same way I do when someone calls me a Reformed rabbi (rather than a Reform rabbi) or a “Rent-A-Rabbi.” I thought to myself: I’m not an […]

READ MORE

Three Denominations Under One Roof

A Reform rabbi, a Conservative rabbi and a 17-year-old Orthodox Yeshiva student sit down to eat Shabbat dinner… Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? Well, it’s not. It was my family last Friday night. We were also joined by my two younger children. In my family, we’ve got a taste of k’lal Yisrael—the whole […]

READ MORE

Let’s Stop Using the Word “Problem” When Talking About Interfaith Marriage

Recently I read two thought-provoking articles in the Jewish press: Rabbi Elliot Cosgove’s article in the New York Jewish Week, “Mikveh Can Solve Conversion Problem” and Rabbi Shaul Magid’s article in The Forward “Why Conversion Lite Won’t Fix The Intermarriage Problem.”  Like so many articles dealing with issues related to interfaith marriage, the headlines of […]

READ MORE

My Favorite Passover Song Parodies – 2017 Edition

Passover is coming, which means that Passover-themed parodies of pop songs are showing up on my Facebook news feed, and possibly yours too. I love watching these videos—they’re a nice break from cleaning out the chametz (leavened products) from my kitchen and thinking about what I’m going to serve at my seder. Last year, I […]

READ MORE

A Jewish Grandmother and Her Catholic Grandchildren: A Love Story

For the past eight-and-a-half years, I’ve been the rabbi of Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai (TMKC). It’s a small community with a close-knit group of congregants.  During our Friday night Shabbat service each week, we have Simcha Time: when people are invited to come up to the bimah and share about birthdays, anniversaries and other good news. […]

READ MORE

Let’s Stop Judging Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s Jewish Observance

It was all over the news. “Ivanka and Jared can ride in cars on inauguration Shabbat” proclaimed the New York Post on Thursday, January 19. “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Get Rabbinic Pass to Ride in Car on Inauguration Shabbat” said a headline in The Forward. All of my friends were talking about this and posting about […]

READ MORE

Talking About Christmas Trees… in July

Two years ago, I was sitting at a table on a warm summer evening with five young couples. They were the newest cohort of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia’s “Love and Religion” workshop for interfaith couples. None of the couples had ever met before, and everyone listened quietly as we went around the table and each couple introduced themselves, sharing […]

READ MORE

Mindful Parenting: Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family

Over the years I’ve enjoyed—and benefited greatly from—the practice of mindfulness meditation. Studying and practicing mindfulness has helped me to be less judgmental (of myself and others), to be more present in the moments that make up my life and to better appreciate the simple beauty in the world around me. Often, when thinking about […]

READ MORE

Top 7 Passover Song Parodies

When I was growing up, I always looked forward to my family’s Passover seders. One of my favorite parts of the seder was the songs—and not just the songs that were in the haggadah, like “Dayenu,” “Chad Gadya” and “Who Knows One?”  I also loved the silly song parodies we’d sing each year at our […]

READ MORE
How to Find a Wedding Officiant Who’s the Right Fit for You

How to Find a Wedding Officiant Who’s the Right Fit for You

Finding a wedding officiant that is a right fit is an important part of planning that special day. The following are brief descriptions of wedding ceremonies of interfaith couples I know (all names have been changed) who were married in recent months: Matthew and Stacie were married by a rabbi* in a ceremony that was very […]

READ MORE

My 8 Favorite Hanukkah Pop Song Parodies

Hanukkah is a holiday full of fun and meaningful traditions, like eating foods made with oil such as latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts); playing the dreidel game; and of course lighting the hanukkiah (the nine branched candelabrum, commonly called a “Menorah” in English). And of course there are the traditional songs – like Ma’oz Tsur […]

READ MORE

Bridget Loves Bernie: During Interfaith Family Month We Celebrate Their Love

It’s 1972. An off-duty, dark haired young cabbie drives by a young blond woman. Slowing down and noticing that the woman is attractive, he switches his light to “on duty” and backs up to pick her up. He drops her off at the school where she teaches, then watches as she walks in. Flash forward […]

READ MORE

SORRY: The Hardest, And Perhaps Most Powerful, Word

One of my favorite children’s books for Yom Kippur is Jacqueline Jules’ The Hardest Word: A Yom Kippur Story. It’s about the Ziz, an enormous bird with dark red wings and a purple forehead. The Ziz’s giant wings are always knocking things over. One day, after the Ziz mistakenly knocks over a big tree with […]

READ MORE

Making Challah and Conversation in Philly

By the IFF/Philadelphia Team: Robyn, Wendy and Robin Challah is the yummy braided bread with which many Jews begin Shabbat dinner. For those who grew up Jewish, the smell and taste of challah often invokes fond memories of family meals. For those who didn’t grow up Jewish (along with those who did), including challah with your […]

READ MORE

“Can we talk?” Can we listen?

“Can we talk?” The late great comedian Joan Rivers had many famous lines, but she was probably better known for these three words than for any others. For many of us, we just have to hear this phrase and Joan comes to mind. Yet perhaps ironically, when Joan Rivers uttered the phrase “Can we talk?” […]

READ MORE

This Mother’s Day Let’s Honor Grandmothers of Jewish Kids Who Aren’t Themselves Jewish

There are usually two types of Jewish blogs written in connection with Mother’s Day: 1. Those that focus on the commandment to honor your parents and note that in Judaism EVERY day should be Mother’s Day. These blogs almost always make one of two arguments:  either that Mother’s Day isn’t necessary since we should be […]

READ MORE

It’s Time to Dispel the Urban Legend of the Orange on the Seder Plate

If you, like me, are past the age of 40, you may remember years ago hearing the claim that Little Mikey of LIFE cereal fame died from the explosive effects of mixing Pop Rocks candy with soda pop. Or you may have heard that children’s television show host Mr. Rogers (Fred Rodgers) always wore long-sleeved […]

READ MORE

Ten Minutes Inside My Head: Why I’m Unplugging on March 6, 2015

On February 17, after enjoying having my three kids off for four days for President’s Weekend, I was ready for them to return to school, and for me to get a lot of work done. But by 5:45 am I learned that their schools were cancelled because of snow. By 11:30 am, as I was […]

READ MORE

Three Terms I Hope Not to Hear in the New Year

As the new year approaches, I’ve been thinking back over the past year—particularly about certain terms I’ve heard used in 2014 that bother me. Following are three terms I hope to hear less of in 2015. NON-JEW: While “non-Jew” is an easy short-hand term and it’s clear what it means, this term can be offensive. […]

READ MORE

My Interfaith Holiday Card Dilemma

“Let’s send out holiday cards!” I said to Wendy and Robin, my co-workers at InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia. We have so many people who’ve supported our work in the past year—our Advisory Council, donors, class and workshop alumni and others—that Wendy and Robin agreed that it would be a great idea to send each of them a card […]

READ MORE

Shabbat Dinner at the Shore

The following is a guest blog post by Sarah & David Falk It was a cool summer day in August down at the Jersey Shore. We were renting a beach house in Bradley Beach with some friends and family for the summer. My husband, David, and his family have been coming down to Bradley Beach […]

READ MORE

Patrilineal Descent: Should the Baby be Taken to the Mikveh for Conversion?

Do you know which of the following children would be considered Jewish without going through a conversion according to halacha (traditional Jewish law)? a)      A child born from the sperm of a Jewish male and the egg of a Jewish female, who was carried by a surrogate who was not Jewish and then raised by […]

READ MORE
Family Fun in Preparation for Rosh Hashanah

Family Fun in Preparation for Rosh Hashanah

I always laugh when people say “the High Holy Days are early this year” or “Rosh Hashanah is late this year.” The fact is that Rosh Hashanah occurs the same time every year—on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It’s never really “early” or “late”—it’s just where it should be! That being […]

READ MORE

Try Shabbat Dinner – We’ll Help!

On Friday evening, July 18, I had a great time welcoming Shabbat. My family’s Shabbat dinner guests were six young interfaith couples who I’ve come to know over the past year—either through officiating at their weddings or through my work at InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia. My IFF/Philadelphia colleague Wendy Armon, her husband Bruce and daughter Tess also joined […]

READ MORE

Converts Not Necessarily Wanted – An Open Letter to Arnold Eisen

Chancellor Eisen, I just read your article in the Wall Street Journal, Wanted: Converts to Judaism, in which you advocate for “the rabbis of the Conservative movement to use every means to explicitly and strongly advocate for conversion.”  Considering that you are the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of the Conservative Movement, your words […]

READ MORE

“How We Be” – Our Day at Camp JRF

Everyone stand in a big circle. If you have a parent who is not Jewish, take a step inside the circle. Stay there. Now, if you are still in the outside circle, and you have a close relative who is not Jewish, take a step inside the circle.  Everyone looked around and saw that nearly […]

READ MORE

Lessons from ‘My Basmati Bat Mitzvah’

I don’t normally read books written for middle schoolers, but I was in the children’s section of my local library picking up a book for my daughter the other day when I noticed a book with a bright yellow cover with a pretty Indian girl entitled My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, written by Paula J. Freedman, […]

READ MORE
Mother reading to daughter

7 Ways to Make Shavuot More Meaningful

On Shavuot, Jews celebrate Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah. If you didn’t grow up Jewish, or even if you did, you may not know much about Shavuot. Although Shavuot is one of the Shelosh Regalim (the three Pilgrimage Festivals), equal in importance to Passover and Sukkot, it’s less commonly celebrated than the other […]

READ MORE

RE-READING RUTH: Not “Ruth and Her Conversion” but “Ruth and her Interfaith Marriage”

A version of this blog post was reprinted in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and can be read here. “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) These words, spoken by the young widow Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi, […]

READ MORE

How to Make Your Passover Seder Fun for Kids

Passover is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays and many Jewish families have some type of Passover seder, but preparing to host a seder can be intimidating. This is true whether or not you grew up Jewish—and, as I can personally attest, even if you’re a rabbi! Seder means “order” in Hebrew, and […]

READ MORE

How an Interfaith Wedding Couple Made Me Think About Queen Esther’s Marriage

A couple of months ago I officiated at the wedding of a wonderful couple—the bride was Jewish and the groom was Christian. Several days after the wedding, I received the following email from the bride, Susan (not her real name): Rabbi, I have a question for you about Purim. Esther married the king, who wasn’t […]

READ MORE

Learn About Your Partner’s Heritage

Even if You Don’t Plan To Convert, You Should Learn About Your Partner’s Religious Heritage: The Value of Introduction to Judaism Classes When I was in rabbinical school in the late 1990s and in the years following my ordination in 2000 I had the great pleasure of teaching the Reform movement’s 16 week Introduction to […]

READ MORE

Advice for Jewish Parents when Your Child Gets Engaged to Someone Who isn’t Jewish

As a rabbi, it’s not unusual for me to get a call from a Jewish parent whose child is engaged to someone who isn’t Jewish. The parent usually asks if we can get together to talk—sometimes they want to talk because they’re having a hard time accepting the fact that their child is going to […]

READ MORE

“Marrying Out” Is Not “Abandoning Judaism”

Jews don’t live in ghettos anymore, and I think most of us would agree that this is a good thing. In our daily lives we interact with all sorts of people who are different from ourselves—people with different political views, people from different socio-economic backgrounds, people of different races and people of different religions. This […]

READ MORE

Thanksgivukkah Quiz

I’ll admit it. I’m obsessed with Thaksgivukkah—the once-in-a-lifetime event occurring on November 28, 2013 when Thanksgiving will coincide with the first day of Hanukkah. The two holidays seem destined to go together: Both celebrate religious freedom and both involve family gatherings and special holiday foods. And, being a holiday that falls in 2013, there’s the […]

READ MORE

We Need to Acknowledge the Losses Parents Who are Not Jewish Feel When Committing to Raise their Children as Jews

I recently spoke with a couple that I’ve known for a while. The husband (I’ll call him Ben; not his real name) is Jewish and the wife (I’ll call her Rachel; also not her real name) is Lutheran. They are very excited because Rachel is pregnant with their first child. They both grew up in […]

READ MORE

My Dream Guest List for Sukkot

I love the holiday of Sukkot! As a congregational rabbi, Sukkot—which comes just five days after Yom Kippur—offers me a welcome break after the pressure of High Holy Day sermons.  Plus, Sukkot is a lot of fun. I always have a great time putting up our Sukkah in our backyard in the days following Yom […]

READ MORE

What Deathclock.com and Yom Kippur Have in Common

Not long ago I was sitting at my computer playing around on the Internet and I found myself at deathclock.com, which bills itself as “the Internet’s friendly reminder that life is slipping away … second by second.” All you have to do is enter your date of birth, your gender, your “mode” (whether you’re normal, […]

READ MORE

How Jewish New Year Resolutions are Different

According to a website called statisticbrain.com, the top five New Year’s resolutions people made for 2017 were: Lose Weight Life/Self-Improvements Make Better Financial Decisions Quit Smoking Do More Exciting Things When calculated for types of resolutions, they found that 44% of resolutions made were related to self-improvement or education; 32% were related to weight; 42% […]

READ MORE

Mazel Tov Adam Levine!

Yesterday I overhead the following conversation between a Jewish mother and her 10-year-old son about the recent engagement of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine: Mom: Did you hear that Adam Levine just got engaged to a shiksa?* Son: He’s Jewish ** and she’s not…that’s a sin. It’s a disgrace to HaShem (God). Mom: That’s right. […]

READ MORE

Don’t Call Me a “Rent-A-Rabbi”

Recently, a good of friend of mine suggested to an interfaith couple who was looking for a rabbi for their wedding ceremony that they be in touch with me. I met with the couple for about an hour and we had a great conversation, at the end of which they asked me to officiate at […]

READ MORE

The Spirituality of Mindfulness Meditation

If someone had told me two years ago that I’d be spending a half hour most days of my life sitting on a cushion focusing on my breath, I would have told them they were crazy!  (Then again, if someone had told me 15 years ago that I’d be living in the suburbs driving a […]

READ MORE

Why I Now Officiate at Interfaith Weddings

When I was ordained as a Reform Rabbi in 2000 I was certain that I would never officiate at interfaith wedding ceremonies. I felt that as a rabbi, my role was to preside over ceremonies only for Jews. I was fully comfortable welcoming interfaith couples into the congregation where I worked and recognized that this […]

READ MORE