18+ Ways to Welcome and Support Interfaith Families

Want to create a culture that embraces, supports and encourages Jewish choice for interfaith families in your synagogue? Here are 18+ ways, from easy to advanced, that your congregation can begin and continue.

  1. Order and display the Union for Reform Judaism brochures “Intermarried? Reform Judaism Welcomes You” and “An Introduction to Sanctuary Etiquette.” Include the words “We welcome interfaith families” in advertising, website and program materials.
  1. Take advantage of proven, successful programming for interfaith families that appear in the “Outreach and Membership Idea Book Series.”
  1. Send one or more of your lay leaders to the Schindler Fellows Program for Interfaith Certification so they can be trained to work with and program for this important membership constituency.
  1. Reserve a prominent shelf in your temple library for Union for Reform Judaism Recommended Books on interfaith and conversion issues.
  1. Offer an annual Outreach Shabbat featuring a panel of interfaith families who have made Jewish choices. Include a non-Jewish partner who has made a commitment to be part of a Jewish family, a Jewish partner who is able to sensitively give voice to the issues involved in intermarriage and someone who is newly Jewish.
  1. Create an introductory pamphlet explaining your worship service. It will be appreciated by those who may not be familiar with Jewish prayer and other worship rituals. Use our “Introduction to Sanctuary Etiquette” for guidance.
  1. Send personalized invitations to interfaith partners for all programs about basic Judaism: Introduction to Judaism, holiday workshops, beginning Hebrew classes, Learners’ Shabbat, etc.
  1. Check your membership application for language that might be off-putting to an interfaith couple, such as asking for Hebrew names and yahrzeit dates. Use inclusive English words and the term “If applicable.” Check out “The Life Cycle of Synagogue Membership” our contact our Outreach staff for model membership forms.
  1. Be sensitive to language in sermons, bulletins and other temple information or forms that may imply that everyone being addressed is Jewish.
  1. Make sure that all your religious school teachers are trained to recognize and supportively address interfaith family issues in the classroom.
  1. Reach out to interfaith families in your preschool and encourage them to attend worship services, parent education and adult education programs in your synagogue.
  1. Engage partners who are not Jewish in appropriate leadership roles and other activities so they can become an integral part of your synagogue community.
  1. Offer private, informal “Discussions with the Rabbi” sessions to enable interested non-Jewish partners to share their personal challenges, questions and concerns.
  1. Clarify synagogue ritual policies so that non-Jewish spouses raising Jewish children and their families can participate meaningfully in their children’s life-cycle events. Check out “Defining the Role of the Non-Jew in the Synagogue” for ideas.
  1. 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. Again, see “Defining the Role of the Non-Jew in the Synagogue” for ideas.
  1. Publicly recognize and honor the contributions of non-Jewish partners who are raising their children as Jews and who support the synagogue. Consider using Rabbi Janet Marder’s “Blessing for Non-Jewish Spouses.”
  1. Offer a supportive dialogue group for parents/grandparents whose adult children are in interfaith relationships. With a trained facilitator leading such a group, parents/grandparents will be able to discuss their own feelings and explore ideas for approaching the interfaith couple in a welcoming and loving way. Helpful resources include “Working with Interfaith Couples” and “Mingled Roots: A Guide for Grandparents of Interfaith Children.”
  1. Train interfaith couples who are active in your synagogue to be mentors for new interfaith families, answer their questions and connect them to synagogue life.
  1. Establish or support an Outreach Committee in your synagogue to ensure a warm welcome, programming and support for interfaith couples and to encourage those who are considering conversion. This can be a separate committee or a subcommittee of your Membership Committee.
  1. Remember that Judaism may appear to be a “closed club” to those who are not Jewish. Clergy, educators, lay leaders and personal friends should be encouraged to invite individuals to consider making Jewish choices.

These ideas are adapted from the URJ’s brochure “ 18+ Ways to Welcome and Support Interfaith Families in Your Synagogue .” 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.

One Response to “18+ Ways to Welcome and Support Interfaith Families”

  1. avatar

    I’d like to add a few more:

    * Don’t assume the non-Jewish spouse is the husband. It’s isolating enough being a non-Jewish mother to Jewish kids.
    * Don’t assume the non-Jewish spouse plans to convert. I live in the bible belt and feel proselytized when I see material that makes that assumption. Please accept me as I am.
    * Help us to learn what we need to know to raise our kids and plan their life events. I felt quite alone planning my son’s Bar Mitzvah.
    * Don’t make a big deal of it. Just treat us like you would another family. We don’t want to be put on a pedestal. We’re not trying to make a point or be heros. We just want to raise our kids the best we can.


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