Interfaith at Temple Shir Tikva

For Ritual Committee reports and supporting documents on Interfaith Marriage, as referenced at the Annual Meeting 2016, please log in as a member and consult the Life Cycle pages. 

Temple Shir Tikva’s mission is to support and help create strong Jewish families. Our congregation reflects the rich diversity that is Jewish life in America today. A significant number of our members are in interfaith marriages, are Jews-by-Choice, were raised by interfaith parents, or have siblings or children who have intermarried. We hope that all who want to create a Jewish family and become a part of our community will take advantage of the many opportunities to learn and celebrate at Temple Shir Tikva.

We partner with all who join us in creating homes rich in Jewish tradition and in raising children as learned and committed Jews. Whether you are seeking personal connection or you just want to help your family’s development, we are here for you.  We ourselves are a community of Jews by birth, Jews by choice, those in the process of conversion, those who are still deciding whether conversion might be the right choice for them (now or in the future), and those who, along with the Jewish members of their family, have been embraced by our congregation.

For an "inside" view of the Interfaith family experience at Shir Tikva see the Member Stories of the Lurie and Glynn families.

What Temple Shir Tikva Means When Using the Term "Interfaith"

When Shir Tikva says “interfaith” in the context of “interfaith couple” or “interfaith family” or “people in interfaith relationships,” we’re inclusive of both immediate and extended families – interfaith couples where one person is Jewish and one is not, couples that include converts to Judaism who still have non-Jewish relatives, people with one Jewish parent, parents of intermarried children, grandparents of children being raised by intermarried parents, etc. Our goal is to meet these families where they are and facilitate deeper connection to Jewish life.

You are welcome in our midst and we will help you find a comfortable home in our synagogue. Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions:

My spouse/partner is Jewish and I am not. If we join, will I be welcomed at Temple Shir Tikva?

Yes! All family members are warmly welcomed at our synagogue. At all times, alone or in the company of your family, you are welcome within our doors.

Do you have other interfaith families at Temple Shir Tikva?

Yes. Temple Shir Tikva has many couples and families who identify as interfaith. We welcome all individuals who come in search of a sacred community, education, social action and friendship. At Shir Tikva, we believe the presence of members from different faith backgrounds can enrich us all. They and their families are a valued part of our synagogue; many of our Religious School volunteers, Mitzvah Day participants, Torah-study commentators, volunteer committee members, and even some Synagogue Board members have not (or not yet) chosen to convert to Judaism. Our Brotherhood and Sisterhood organizations also include many members from a variety of faith backgrounds.  All are valued members of our congregation. We are grateful for their presence.

Will my child(ren) be considered Jewish if one us is not Jewish?

The Reform Movement recognizes patrilineal as well as matrilineal descent, meaning that the children of either the Jewish parent (mother or father) are Jewish when they are raised and educated as Jews. We recognize the unique commitment made by interfaith families who seek out our synagogue. There are many children in our Religious School who have one Jewish parent. Our Religious School welcomes all such children equally, and the presence of other religions in some students’ extended families is not unusual here.

All parents, Jewish and non-Jewish, are welcomed and encouraged to join in all aspects of their child’s learning experience. This includes participating in family programs and religious services, meeting with the teachers, helping in the classroom, and working with students on at-home assignments.

As the non-Jewish parent in an interfaith family, will I be able to participate in our children’s bar/bat mitzvah?

Yes, absolutely. The entire family is included in these celebrations including the child’s Jewish and non-Jewish grandparents. While there are some aspects of Jewish ritual life that are reserved for Jews to fulfill, it is important that partners from different faith backgrounds are fully invested in these precious life cycle moments. Further discussion as to the various roles will be covered during the family meetings with our clergy.

If we join Temple Shir Tikva, will a non-Jewish partner be considered a full member?

Yes!!! When a family or a couple joins Temple Shir Tikva all immediate family members are considered full members. They can attend services, attend classes and participate in synagogue programs and holiday celebrations, and have a role in our synagogue committee structure. We encourage our interfaith members to attend synagogue events and services as a family. Sharing Jewish liturgy, history, traditions, music, food, and culture can draw families together in a very important way.

Will I ever be pressured to convert to Judaism?

We value every individual for who they are and where they are in life. We will never pressure you to convert to Judaism. If, however, you are interested in pursuing a journey toward conversion, our Rabbis and Cantor are always here to serve as your guides.

Are your services all in Hebrew? Will I be able to follow along as a participant from a different faith background?

Our Siddur (prayer book) has Hebrew, transliteration into English and an English translation of the prayer. Throughout the service the clergy will read or sing prayers in English and in Hebrew, but the most important part of prayer is the one that comes from the heart. Our services are authentically Jewish, but we are proud that they are also user-friendly and welcoming of guests in our community.

If I’m not Jewish but am attending religious services, what should I do during the service? Can I read aloud or am I supposed to sit quietly?

We welcome your participation in our worship services and other rituals, and we encourage you to read, sing, meditate and celebrate with the rest of our congregation. Our intention is to fully respect your individual religious choices while maintaining the integrity of Jewish tradition.  In general, you should feel free to participate as you feel comfortable with all prayers included in the Siddur or other prayers or songs provided to the congregation.

On special occasions, congregants may be honored with leadership roles in our services. Some of these roles are open to everyone. However, there are a few roles that we respectfully reserve for Jewish congregants, including leading the congregation in prayers that affirm a Jewish identity or speak of specifically Jewish obligations to fulfill God’s commandments. This includes recitation of the blessings surrounding Torah readings (Aliyahs).

I’d like to attend services with my children, but I’m afraid they won’t be able to sit for a whole service. 

We love children here and we want them to participate in our Shabbat and holiday services! Shir Tikva encourages families with children to attend services.  Our Friday night services are a wonderful way to begin to learn more about Judaism, and participate in a beautiful and very spiritual service.   Friday night services last about 75 minutes, are upbeat, and include lots of singing, which many children enjoy.

Families often bring quiet activities for children to do during the service (books, coloring books, activity books).  Some families even sit on the floor in the back of the sanctuary, giving small children room to spread out, but still be present.  In addition, many families may quietly leave and enter the sanctuary during the service.  Our clergy (some of whom are parents, and have faced the same challenges) are sympathetic and delight in parents’ efforts to expose their children to regular service attendance.

I have more questions. How can I learn more?

Call any of our clergy.  They are happy to answer any questions and eager to make all congregants feel welcome and supported.  We also have an active Interfaith Working Group comprised of congregants who are from different faith backgrounds or who are part of interfaith families, and they are here to support you.