An Inclusive Change in Cleveland

Jewish interfaith couples in Cleveland now have a few more options when looking for a rabbi to officiate at their wedding. According to the Cleveland Jewish News, Rabbis Richard Block and Roger Klein, both of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Cleveland, have recently decided “that they will now officiate at weddings of some interfaith couples.” The decision came about organically, they said, when they realized that refusing to officiate undermined their ability to “help create and strengthen Jewish families and to assure a vigorous, expansive and sturdy Jewish future.”

As with most rabbis who officiate at interfaith weddings, both Rabbi Block and Klein said they have criteria that must be followed. The couples must belong to the congregation, commit to raising Jewish children, create a Jewish home, and participate in the life of the community. The other condition is that Rabbis Block and Klein won’t co-officiate with other clergy.

While their decision is not for every rabbi, we believe it’s important to have options available in communities. We also recognize that some rabbis will agree with this decision, and others won’t. Officiating has always been – and should continue to be – up to the individual rabbi. Rabbis Block and Klein merely recognized that in their community, there was a need to offer interfaith couples an additional option if they want to have a Jewish wedding.

In Cleveland, the response to the decision so far has been overwhelmingly positive. One congregant said it demonstrates how “truly inclusive” the congregation is, and another said “this action will mean the difference between children having God in their lives or not.” That might be going a little far, as there are plenty of opportunities beyond the wedding to reach interfaith families. Too often, this is seen as an either/or proposition. Even for rabbis who feel that they cannot or are not permitted by their respective rabbinic organization to do so, there are other things that they can do–surrounding any life cycle event–that helps them to reach out to interfaith families and their children.

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