The Role of Non-Jewish Members at Temple Shalom

Temple Shalom believes that “Jewish Families” come to Temple Shalom in all possible ways and welcomes with love and inclusiveness non-Jewish spouses/partners and immediate relatives of our Jewish members as members of our congregational family and as active participants in congregational life and worship service.  Many of our most active families are inter-faith and non-Jewish spouses/partners have served in various leadership roles at Temple Shalom.  These views were formalized in a 2011 Amendment to the Temple Shalom Constitution and Policy regarding the role of non-Jewish members, which establish full membership for non-Jewish members with only narrow restrictions on how they may serve the community (e.g., Chairs of the Worship Committee and Religious Education Committee must be Jewish as do Trustees and Officers), including after the passing of the Jewish spouse/partner.

Under the Constitution, the role of the non-Jew in our worship services is decided by the Senior Rabbi.  In 2013, our then-Senior Rabbi issued a Statement on the Role of Non-Jewish Members in Worship Services, which expanded the role of non-Jewish members in our worship services.  Under this Statement, non-Jews may sit on the bima, go to the Ark to open and close the Ark doors, read appropriate passages from the prayer book, participate in hakafot (dancing with the Torah on Simchat Torah), participate in the parental passing of the Torah from generation to generation during b’nai mitzvah services, present the  Bar/Bat Mitzvah certificate, and participate in the service in other ways which make sense in a communal context as a reflection of the non-Jewish member’s own personal identity.  Ritual acts directly involving the preparation of the Torah scroll (dressing or undressing the scroll), reciting the traditional blessings surrounding the reading of the Torah, the ritual reading of the Torah itself, and reading passages from the prayer book that are obviously meant to be read by Jews are roles which are reserved for Jewish participants in the service.  Where barriers to participation for non-Jewish family members wishing to participate in a service exist, alternative and creative wording or roles will be explored.  For example, the non-Jewish parent at Temple Shalom typically recites in English an alternative blessing surrounding the reading of the Torah during b’nai mitzvah services.  This 2013 Statement has been reaffirmed by Senior Rabbi Rachel Ackerman as a reflection of her views and practices, and intentions for Temple Shalom.

Please review the following documents for more information: