No One is More Welcome at Congregation Or Ami than You!
Congregation Or Ami, like all Reform Jewish congregations, holds the mitzvah (religious responsibility) of ahavat ger (welcoming the stranger) among the most important tenets of our faith. We actively welcome interfaith families into our community and encourage their participation in our synagogues. We work to empower people to make Jewish choices for themselves and their families and strive to provide resources to inform educated decisions. We strive to be welcoming places for people of diverse religious backgrounds, sexual orientations and ethnic backgrounds.
Many couples that begin with two individuals from different backgrounds need to integrate separate lives into one family. And for interfaith couples and their families, that integration also includes differing religious traditions and cultures. Remember: you are not alone. Congregation Or Ami, Rabbis Paul Kipnes and Julia Weisz, Cantor Doug Cotler and our Reform Jewish movement, welcome you. Congregation Or Ami is already proud to be a home congregation for many interfaith couples and families, and we welcome you to share in the warmth of our community. We invite you to begin a conversation with Rabbi Paul Kipnes to share your hopes or questions about being an interfaith family at Or Ami.
You may be wondering about…
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Services: Because you have decided to raise your child as a Jew, we at Or Ami strive to ensure that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience is welcoming to all members of your family. We invite both parents to participate fully in the service, from the ceremony of passing Torah down through the generations to standing up at the Torah during the aliyah (Torah blessing) to the opportunity to bless your child. Our creativity allows family members of other faiths to help celebrate your simcha (joyous moment) as well. You may begin a conversation with Rabbi Kipnes about your family’s questions about Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Shabbat and Holy Day Services: Being a welcoming community is central to who we are. From the moment you are greeted at the door with a smile (and often a hug), we strive to make you feel that Or Ami is your spiritual home. Our love of music ensures that everyone can enjoy inspirational moments in our services. Original English songs and mixed Hebrew/English singing allow maximal participation. Page numbers are frequently announced. All Hebrew prayers are also transliterated (Hebrew written in English letters); and translations and commentaries of all prayers are featured in our siddur (prayerbook). Of course, our Rabbis and Cantor are more than happy to offer a quick tutorial on “tip-toeing through the tefillah (worship service).” We invite you to read about our services or to email Rabbi Paul Kipnes or Cantor Doug Cotler.
Learning More about Judaism: Without pressure, we invite you (whether you are Jewish or not) to enjoy our programs and classes. Adult learning activities occur throughout the year and include weekly study sessions, monthly brunches or book groups, evening programs and Shabbat seminars. We invite you to learn more about upcoming Adult Learning Opportunities or to email our Educator, Rabbi Julia Weisz, who coordinates our Adult Learning.
Educating Children: You may be especially interested in our Mishpacha Family Alternative Learning Program. (Mishpacha means “family” in Hebrew.) An alternative to our wonderful Monday-Wednesday drop-off Kesher program (formerly “Religious School”), our Mishpacha program allows parents and children to study together twice monthly on Sunday mornings. Often adults spend time alone with Rabbi Kipnes while children learn in multi-grade groupings with our fine faculty. Everyone learns the same material at age-appropriate levels. Then parents and children interact through projects, games, trials and round robin activities to explore the beauty of Judaism. This program is especially helpful for interfaith families as they seek to learn more about being Jewish and figure out how to support their Jewish child(ren)’s spiritual education. We invite you to learn more about Mensch-ify (family learning), Kesher, and HUB (our new teen program). Feel free to speak with Rabbi Julia Weisz who oversees them all.
Our Experience as an Interfaith Family
by Irene Faust
“As an interfaith couple, it was no great leap to decide to also become an inter-racial family. My husband, although he does not participate in the religion, agreed that our daughter would be raised as a Jew. Shortly after our return home from China in January, 1998, I took our daughter, Melina, to the mikvah at the University of Judaism for her conversion.
We then started to look for a place in the Jewish community where we could feel at home and be recognized as ourselves rather than just as a blended family. We tried a few different places, but it wasn’t until we came as guests to the Seder in the Wilderness that Melina and I both knew we’d finally found what we were looking for. Melina was off with newly made friends by the time that I returned from the adult hike. After attending our first Shabbat service, Melina turned to me and said “I like our new temple, everyone is so happy here.”
Membership: Here at Or Ami, interfaith families are full members of our community. We welcome but do not pressure non-Jewish family members to participate in whatever aspect of congregational life you enjoy and find meaningful. Rabbi Kipnes and Cantor Cotler welcome everyone in your interfaith family as part of our community. When joy brightens your life, whether in the Jewish or non-Jewish member’s extended family, our rabbi and cantor will help celebrate. When illness touches your life, whether in the Jewish or the non-Jewish member’s extended family, our rabbi and cantor will reach out to offer support. We invite you to find out more about membership and/or to begin a conversation with Susie Stark in our synagogue office who can answer many of your questions.
Conversion: Sure, some (but not all) non-Jewish partners in a Jewish family consider conversion. We welcome it, but do not pressure you to consider it. Rabbi Kipnes talks with, studies with, and helps people struggling with these issues in a non-threatening, open way. Rest assured that Rabbi Kipnes will be there for your family no matter what you decide. The choice is yours. We invite you to begin a conversation with Rabbi Kipnes.
In case you were interested in more…
- Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Outreach Pages
- The Color of Water by James McBride, a book about a young black man’s search to uncover his white Jewish mother’s past and his own identity.
- Jews of Many Colors: Honoring Jewish Diversity, a pamphlet
- Intermarried? Reform Judaism Welcomes You, a brochure
- Every Person’s Guide to Judaism, a book by Rabbi Stephen Einstein and Lydia Kukoff
- Bechol Lashon, an eNewsletter celebrating multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial Jews
- An Introduction to Synagogue Etiquette, a pamphlet
- Jewish Outreach Institute’s Questions and Answers
- Judaism 101: Everything You Wanted to Know about Judaism But Were Too Embarrassed to Ask
- Jews by Choice – a website about, by and for Jews by Choice
- Bimah Blessing for Non-Jewish Spouses/Partners
- Or email our Rabbi Paul Kipnes with your questions.