Jim Keen, a columnist for Interfaithfamily.com and author of the book “Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner’s Perspective on Raising Jewish Children,” recently wrote an article for the Atlanta Jewish Times on his reflections as a Protestant dad preparing for his daughter’s bat mitzvah. And it’s the kind of story we wish we heard more often.
His family’s congregation, Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, MI, has taken positive steps to make sure Jim will be involved in the service by giving him the Hagbah, lifting the Torah before it’s dressed and put back in the ark. Knowing that there were certain parts of the service his temple would not be able to let him perform, like being called up to the Torah to read the blessing before and after a section of the Torah is read, having the honor of the Hagbah gave Jim a “deep feeling of warmth and love” for the temple. He continues:
“Temple Beth Emeth has always accepted us as an intermarried family. Our rabbi, our cantor, the religious school director as well as our entire synagogue community recognize that intermarriage happens (frequently). They also understand that the best way to encourage participation in Jewish life is to lower the barriers to entry and invite interfaith families in.”
Each temple or congregation will have their own set of standards when it comes to including the spouse of another religious background during life cycle events like a bar/bat mitzvah. But what shouldn’t be denied is an opportunity for the whole family to celebrate with the community. Synagogues should represent more than just a place to worship – they should be a place that defines the community. And in the case of Jim Keen and his family, that means opening their doors to everyone and saying “Welcome.”
No comments yet.