When planning for a Jewish lifecycle event with family members of other faiths, the question often arises about whether non-Jewish family members should be allowed to participate in the ceremony, or more specifically, recite Hebrew blessings, especially when the ceremony takes place on a bimah. There is no one answer, and even synagogues within the same movement do not always agree.
In the Spring 2012 edition of Reform Judaism, the magazine distributed by the Union of Reform Judaism, the “Debatable” section posed the following question: May Non-Jews Recite Any Blessings from the Bimah?
The magazine includes responses from two rabbis: one who allows non-Jews to recite Hebrew blessings from the bimah, and one who does not. Both, in my mind, make solid cases for their reasoning. However, I side with Rabbi Elliot Strom’s decision to allow non-Jewish family members to participate. I was also moved by what prompted his decision—a non-Jewish father who wanted to recite a blessing with his wife for their son’s Bar Mitzvah. This particular congregant has chosen to not convert out of respect for his devout Catholic mother, but for all intents and purposes, lives “Jewishly.” After losing some sleep over the issue, Rabbi Strom decided to allow the father to recite the blessing with his wife, and immediately knew it was the right thing to do: