With the growing prevalence of intermarriage making it increasingly likely that large traditionally Jewish families will include at least one (if not more) person of a different religious heritage, the issue of inclusion in rites such as the Passover Seder is bound to arise. As the Canadian Jewish News describes, though, this shift from an insular to a more inclusive community is not without complications.
To some, the inclusion of people of other religious backgrounds at a Seder is troubling, and brings up a number of pressing questions. In a positive development, however, the president of the Conservative movement’s Ontario Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Wayne Allen, attempted to answer all of those questions in a way that welcomed outsiders. After addressing several of the questions surrounding the issue , Rabbi Allen came to the conclusion, “We are left with no serious objections [to having non-Jewish guests at the seder].” He then went on to say, “But what about positive statements?” Not only can the inclusion of people of other faith backgrounds be justified, but Rabbi Allen is taking it a step further and encouraging the Jewish community to look at the ways their celebration can be enhanced by the presence of these new guests.
This line of thinking matches up perfectly with what we believe at JOI, and is a real-world example of outreach best practices. Also noteworthy was an endorsement of inclusion issued by an Orthodox author, Rabbi Maurice Lamm. Having guests of other religious denominations at a Seder, Lamm says, “enhances the integrity of the Jewish people. One of the fine things [guests] will learn is the important values for which we stand.” Rabbi Allen and Rabbi Lamm both focus solely on accentuating positive aspects and celebrating what new guests can add to the proceedings – they “welcome the stranger” rather than excluding them.