Two years ago, Rabbi Janet Marder of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos, CA took a bold step forward in her Yom Kippur sermon when she invited those of other religious backgrounds who are raising Jewish children to come forward to the bima (the elevated section of the synagogue).
On the bima, in front of the entire congregation, she thanked them and she blessed them. She thanked them for both the “mundane” (driving the kids to Hebrew school) and for the sublime (casting their future lot with the Jewish people). This stirred a great deal of controversy in Reform congregations and beyond. In anticipation of the High Holidays, the Union for Reform Judaism, the national arm of the Reform movement, sent out a list of guidelines for welcoming in interfaith families.
Among its recommendations was, in fact, a suggestion similar to what Rabbi Marder had done. Needless to say, the controversy arose once again this year, according to an article in JTA. How do we honor those of other religious backgrounds who are raising Jewish children without singling them out or making them feel uncomfortable? How do we affirm their decision without affirming the decision of those who are Jews by Choice or Jews by Chance (birth) who are also raising Jewish children, juggling similar schedules, and making financial decisions about synagogue affiliation and religious education?
This time of year is a time of reflection. It is also a time of celebration, especially of the Jewish family for it contains the seeds of our future. And so we celebrate and welcome all those families raising Jewish children, and are especially appreciative of moms and dads of other religious backgrounds who have made the decision to raise their children as Jews. We welcome you into our synagogue with open arms and open hearts.
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