Our goal is to provide a comfortable and welcoming place at Congregation Beth Yam, Whether part of an interfaith family, an extension of an interfaith family, not Jewish, or Jewish and wishing to further understand Judaism. It is our hope to extend education, programming, membership, and community to those seeking to worship and connect with our faith in a warm, friendly and inclusive environment.
Interfaith Families, CBY welcomes you. Congregation Beth Yam, has made a commitment to couples with one Jewish partner to welcome them as a couple within our community, to embrace them and their children, and to offer support and education for their extended families. The following information answers some basic questions about interfaith families.
I AM JEWISH; MY PARTNER IS NOT. ARE WE WELCOME AS A COUPLE TO ATTEND WORSHIP SERVICES IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY?
Yes! The prophet Isaiah said: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” We know from the Torah that from the very earliest days, there have been individuals who lived with the Jewish community but who themselves were not Jewish. Temple Beth Yam welcomes you as a family, not as a Jew and a Non-Jew.
I AM NOT JEWISH. ARE THERE PARTS OF THE SERVICE RESERVED ONLY FOR JEWS?
You are welcome at all regular services in the synagogue, and, of course, at any life-cycle events to which you are invited (for example, a wedding). You are welcome to participate in nearly everything that is done or read by the whole congregation at a service. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to ask the Rabbi or Outreach Chairperson.
I DON’T READ HEBREW. HOW CAN I POSSIBLY
FOLLOW THE SERVICE?
At CBY, we use both English and Hebrew in the services and provide English translations for many of the Hebrew prayers and readings. If you wish to participate in reading the Hebrew aloud, transliterations for common prayers in the service are usually available. (A transliteration is a phonetically written version of a prayer.) It is perfectly acceptable to read only the parts of the service with which you feel comfortable or to just sit and listen. If you need help finding the place in the prayer book, simply ask someone nearby. Temple members want visitors to feel welcome and at ease during services.
DO I HAVE TO BE JEWISH TO BELONG TO THE TEMPLE? DO I HAVE TO BE JEWISH TO SERVE ON A COMMITTEE OR ON THE BOARD?
Our congregation includes interfaith couples as members and will welcome your participation on most committees and in other facets of congregational life. However, you must be Jewish to serve on the Board. Ask a Board member any questions you have.
WILL I BE PRESSURED TO CONVERT IF WE JOIN THE SYNAGOGUE?
The Jewish community takes delight in welcoming those who choose to embrace Judaism as their own religion. Our sages, however, have made it very clear that a conversion is not valid if it results from any pressure or coercion. You are welcome in CBY as a friend of the Jewish people. You do not have to convert.
IF A JEW MARRIES A NON-JEW, WHAT ARE THE CHILDREN?
Traditional Jewish law says membership in the Jewish people is matrilineal; that is, passed through the mother. However, in 1983, after much study and discussion, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinic body of the Reform Movement, ruled that children with one Jewish parent (mother or father) will be recognized as Jews if they are raised and educated as Jews. For Reform Judaism, Jewish identity for children is a matter of parental decision.
SO IF RELIGIOUS IDENTITY INVOLVES MAKING A CHOICE, HOW DO WE CHOOSE? WHO SHOULD MAKE THE DECISION?
Children depend on their parents to teach them about identity in many areas of life. It is our experience children who are given roots in one tradition are more likely to feel a secure sense of belonging. Children who are raised in two traditions too often feel they do not truly belong in either community. This is a highly personal decision for parents to make and should be approached with respect for both traditions. Many interfaith couples have chosen to raise their children as Jews, and CBY welcomes them and their children. In those families, non-Jewish parents often play a key role in providing for their children’s Jewish education and in creating a Jewish home environment.
WE ARE CONSIDERING ENROLLING OUR CHILD IN A RELIGIOUS SCHOOL. ARE PARENTS WHO ARE NOT JEWS WELCOME TO PARTICIPATE IN RELIGIOUS SCHOOL CLASSROOMS AND EVENTS?
We encourage both parents to be involved in their child’s religious school experience, and we welcome your participation.
CAN NON-JEWISH GRANDPARENTS BE PART OF MY JEWISH CHILD’S LIFE?
Yes! A child who knows his or her grandparents is a fortunate child. All grandparents are welcome to attend services and events at the synagogue and at your child’s religious school. Shabbat dinner on Friday nights constitutes a special time for family gatherings which can include grandparents. Grandparents can share family stories, customs, and jokes. A child’s relationship with a grandparent is a treasure and should be nurtured.
FAMILY TO FAMILY is a program sponsored by the Outreach Committee. A volunteer member family hosts a holiday meal in their home and invites an interfaith family to join them. This is a wonderful way to help them learn more about Jewish traditions and how to celebrate the Jewish holidays. If you would like to be a host family, click here. If you would like to be a interfaith hosted family, click here.
On questions of ritual and Judaic teaching, please feel free to consult Rabbi Brad Bloom, email@example.com or call 689-2178
URJ Interfaith Blog By Marcia Frezza, click here
For more details please contact Outreach Committee, Marcia Brandt Frezza, Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org.