We believe the whole of the Jewish community is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s why we advocate so strongly for reaching across denominational boundaries to work together towards a common goal of strengthening the Jewish community. This weekend that philosophy will be put into practice by Interfaithways when it holds its third annual Interfaith Family Shabbat Weekend in Philadelphia. According to the Jewish Exponent:
Some 50 synagogues throughout the area, as well as in communities in neighboring southern New Jersey and Delaware, will sponsor special Oneg Shabbats, learner’s services, Shabbat luncheons, speakers and other programming to deepen the relationship between the congregations and interfaith families.
Rabbi Meyer Selekman, vice president of Interfaithways, wrote in a separate opinion piece for the Exponent that many Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues now “wrestle with how to respond to their intermarried families around life cycle events, and which leadership roles the partner of the other faith can take, if any, in the life of the congregation.” The Interfaith Family Shabbat Weekend is an opportunity for those institutions to take a step towards “reaching out to these couples and their families with open doors and open arms.”
The number of synagogues and congregations involved in the Shabbat weekend show there is a real hunger for inclusion. Rabbi Selekman, who spoke at our recent conference in Philadelphia, and Interfaithways understand that lowering barriers to participation and truly opening doors to all who are interested will have positive results. But this weekend, though geared towards interfaith families, is a good outreach opportunity for all Jews on the periphery. The Exponent’s editorial board had this to say about the weekend:
In this age of “every Jew is a Jew by choice,” the challenge of engaging the intermarried is not dissimilar from the challenge of engaging unaffiliated families where both spouses are Jewish. For both populations, it’s about providing a meaningful reason to connect.
This is our central task — creating spiritually fulfilling Jewish journeys for anyone willing to embark. Let’s build upon the successful programs that exist and create new models as well. Our Jewish future could well depend on it.
We applaud Interfaithways and all those involved in making Philadelphia such an open place. It’s inspiring to see so many come together with one shared goal welcoming in all those who are now part of our community. Hopefully these messages of inclusion will extend beyond the weekend – and beyond Philadelphia – and become a permanent fixture on the entire North American Jewish community.