Enrollment Policies in Reform Religious Schools


The Reform religious school is a primary pathway for outreach to interfaith families, inviting them into an active Jewish community and giving them the tools to make Jewish choices. As Reform Jews, we welcome interfaith families and encourage them to affirm the Jewish identification of their children through covenant and naming ceremonies, consecration, Torah study in our religious schools, Bar/Bat Mitzvah and confirmation. These are mitzvot that affirm "a positive and exclusive Jewish identity" for a child with one Jewish parent that are enumerated by the CCAR in its declaration on patrilineal descent (1983).

We recognize that enrollment of children in a Jewish religious school is a complex decision that interfaith parents do not undertake lightly. It can have profound implications for the children, the couple and the household they have created and can entail significant sacrifice, particularly for the parent who is not Jewish. We respect the desire and acknowledge the challenge for interfaith parents to impart knowledge and appreciation of the heritage of both parents to their children, while giving them a singular and firm religious foundation on which to grow. Further, we know that such a decision can and often does lead the whole family to a deepened connection with the synagogue at many levels, not only the school. When a family grows and feels enriched by living as Jews, the Jewish community too is blessed.

Admission to Reform religious school of children whose parents have decided to raise and educate them as Jews is fully consistent with the mission of our schools, which, broadly stated, is to teach Judaism as a faith that is lived, and to enable students to develop a strong, positive Jewish identity that is acted on in relation to God, Torah and Israel.

However, experience tells us that some interfaith couples who seek to enroll their children in Reform religious schools are not raising and educating their children exclusively as Jews. They may wish to educate their children in both Judaism and another religion with the idea that at a later time the children will decide which religion is right for them. Or they may choose to identify and educate their children as "both."

This is a path that we as committed Reform Jews cannot support. First, it is contrary to our understanding of Outreach which, while deeply respecting other religions, offers a way into Judaism as a distinctive and precious way of life and faith. Second, it is theologically inconsistent for a person to identify as both Jewish and Christian (or as an adherent of any other religion). Indeed, it is the long-standing policy of the Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach to encourage interfaith couples to choose a single religious identification for their children. Third, psychologically placing the burden of such an impossible decision on children may imperil their healthy spiritual development. Finally, the goal of parents to educate children in both Judaism and another religion is incongruent with the mission of Reform religious schools as articulated above. Without diminishing rights of parents in determining the religious education of their children, our Reform religious schools must nevertheless, insist on fulfilling the purpose of making committed adult Jews out of Jewish children.

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

1. Encourage congregations to take the following steps:

a. Establish a clearly articulated policy that offers enrollment in Reform religious schools and day schools only to children who are not receiving formal religious education in any other religion;

b. Develop clear and sensitive procedures for communicating the goals of the school and enrollment policy to all parents, particularly interfaith parents; and

c. Provide and strengthen programs for interfaith couples who are seeking a religious path for their families, encouraging them to explore Judaism. We call for the expansion of Outreach program, such as alternative family education programs, holiday celebrations and worship services, Introduction to Judaism classes, "Stepping Stones," "Taste of Judaism," and interfaith couple's workshops; and

2. Call on the UAHC-CCAR Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach together with the UAHC-CCAR-NATE Commission on Education to develop and provide models for setting policy and examples of policy, and to encourage congregations to offer appropriate programming to open the way for interfaith couples and their children to choose Judaism.