18 Ways to Welcome Adoptive Families into Your Congregation

Judaism commands us to “be fruitful and multiply.” Many couples and individuals fulfill this commandment through adoption, providing loving homes to children who desperately need them. Welcoming Jewish families enlarged through adoption into your congregation requires sensitivity to the unique issues they face. Here are 18 ways your congregational community can welcome and embrace adoptive families.

  1. Like most contemporary family stories, adoption is not new to the Jewish people and there are many examples in Torah. Share this information with your teachers when planning meetings and in-service training for Religious School, Early Childhood and Day School. Encourage your teachers to include references to adoption as they are teaching Torah and holiday stories. Here are some examples of adoption in the Torah:
  1. Abraham and Sarah raised Abraham’s nephew, Lot. Include this when teaching about Abraham and Sarah’s welcoming nature. (Genesis 12:5)
  1. Moses was “adopted” and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. Include this fact when telling the Passover story. (Exodus 2:10)
  1. Queen Esther may have been raised by her uncle Mordecai. Do not overlook this issue when telling the story of Purim. (Esther 2:7)
  1. Invite families with a newly adopted child to meet with the rabbi to arrange for the appropriate rituals and ceremonies for welcoming their new child into the covenant such as brit milah, brit bat, mikvah, and naming ceremonies.
  1. Remember that each family will be different in the information they wish to make public.
  1. If your congregation welcomes new babies into the community at Shabbat services, make sure that adoptive parents are included as they welcome children of any age who have been adopted.
  1. Help congregants say “Mazel Tov” by listing adoptions along with births and marriages and other life cycle moments in temple publications.
  1. If your congregation honors those who have converted to Judaism with an aliyah during the High Holy Days, consider honoring adoptive families as well.
  1. If your congregation lists birthdays and anniversaries in your temple bulletin, extend the offer to adoptive families to include “adoption day” if that is a day that is celebrated in their family.
  1. Create a series for your temple bulletin or e-communications that share the stories of temple families. Make sure this includes families that have adopted children.
  1. Some adoptions add ethnic or racial diversity to a family. Make sure that the pictures on your website reflect the diverse nature of your congregation so that families will see a reflection of their identity.
  1. Make sure Jewish preschool or preschool programs are publicized in the community; as part of that publicity, mention that they are welcoming and supportive of adoptive families.
  1. Make sure your library contains books on the process of adoption and raising an adopted child for parents.
  1. Make sure the children’s section of your library contains books about children who have been adopted. (Some suggestions here)
  1. When possible, consider pairing a new set of adoptive parents with parents who have previously adopted, or creating a havurah for adoptive families.
  1. Plan a discussion panel in which adoptive parents, the rabbi and either a social worker or preschool director share their experiences with adoption with the congregation.
  1. Offer a support group for couples and individuals considering adoption. If there is already an adoptive parents’ support group in your area, invite them to meet in your congregation.

These ideas are adapted from the URJ’s brochure, “18 Ways to Welcome Adoptive Families into Your Congregation.” Download the brochure for expanded ideas and details or visit www.urj.org/outreach..

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Kate Bigam

About Kate Bigam

Kate Bigam is the URJ's Social Media and Community Manager. Prior to this, she served as a Congregational Representative for the URJ's East District and at the Religious Action Center as Press Secretary and as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. Kate resides in Northeast Ohio.

3 Responses to “18 Ways to Welcome Adoptive Families into Your Congregation”

  1. avatar

    When our children adopted 3-1/2 year old Max from Ukraine, they were counseled to keep the adoption story fresh; and one way they did this was be celebrating what Kate calls Adoption Day, but they called Gotcha Day.

    In time, Max let his parents know that he was fully integrated into the family, and didn’t want too much made of his adoption. However, he still enjoys going to the gatherings of the local organization that brings together families with adoptees from the Former Soviet Union.

  2. avatar

    I wish we had had more discussions like this she we adopted 19 and 15 years ago. Incorporating adoption rituals for those who want them into b’nai mitzvah is also something to think about. My daughter chose to formally convert in a mikveh before her bat mitzvah, something we did not do when she was a baby.

  3. avatar

    More considerations: not every family that adopts is a 2-parent family – more and more singles are adopting these days; not every 2-parent family that adopts is made up of a mom and dad – more and more same-sex couples are adopting. Our rituals, language and community practices need to make these folks welcome and not feel “different.”

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