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October 4, 2015 | 21st Tishrei 5776

Leaders Supporting Interfaith Members

Reform Judaism has a tradition of welcoming interfaith households into the synagogue, but what does that mean for your synagogue? Each congregation has the opportunity to offer policy and programmatic support that best fits the unique culture of its community, and it's helpful to periodically review and clarify such offerings.

The URJ's 18+ Ways to Welcome and Support Interfaith Families in Your Synagogue recommends the following with regard to clarifying congregational policy:

Periodically review your bylaws. Make sure that you have clear and consistent policies about the role of the non-Jew pertaining to membership, governance and ritual. Inform non-Jewish partners of all the ways that they are welcome to participate in the synagogue by using sensitively written brochures that explain your policies.

18+ Ways... also offers other helpful suggestions:

  • Engage partners who are not Jewish in appropriate leadership roles.
  • Offer an Outreach Shabbat, featuring a panel of interfaith families who have made Jewish choices.
  • Send personalized invitations to interfaith partners for all programs about basic Judaism, like Introduction to Judaism, holiday workshops, beginning Hebrew classes, Learners' Shabbat and more.
  • Ensure your membership application is written in an inviting tone, and that it does not include language that might be off-putting to prospective interfaith members.

As you clarify your congregation's policies and procedures regarding non-Jewish members' roles in your synagogue, remember that the process of decision making is as important as the policies you create. The URJ's Defining the Role of the Non Jew in the Synagogue: A Resource for Congregations contains best practices from across North America regarding membership and governance policies. It provides guidance for sensitively addressing interfaith issues and synagogue-tested models for creating and refining policy.

For more information, visit the URJ's Supporting Interfaith page or contact an Outreach specialist.

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