The Blessing of Jewish Adjacent Members

Temple Shalom believes that “Jewish Families” come to Temple Shalom in all possible ways and welcomes with love and inclusiveness the non-Jewish spouses/partners and immediate relatives of our Jewish members as full members of our congregational family and as active participants in congregational life and worship service. Following the Reform movement’s teachings, we view those family members not as non-Jewish but as “Jewish Adjacent” to recognize that they travel their own journey of spirituality and community engagement adjacent to and with their Jewish family members.

Many of our most active families are inter-faith and our Jewish Adjacent members often are the driving force in their families Jewish-engagement. Many Jewish Adjacent members have served in a wide range of leadership roles at Temple Shalom. Recent surveys of our congregation show that approximately a third of households are inter-faith.

The importance of Jewish Adjacent members to our community has been reflected in our governance for the past decade with Jewish Adjacent members having full rights of membership, including full voting rights 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). Membership in our community continues after the passing of the Jewish spouse/partner.

Jewish Adjacent members often participate in our worship services, including by sitting on the bima, opening and closing the Ark doors, reading appropriate passages from the prayer book, participate in hakafot (dancing with the Torah on Simchat Torah), participating in the parental passing of the Torah from generation to generation during b’nai mitzvah services, presenting the Bar/Bat Mitzvah certificate, and participating in the service in other ways which make sense in a communal context as a reflection of the Jewish Adjacent 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 (alternative liturgically appropriate blessings are available to Jewish Adjacent parents at b’nai mitzvah services), 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 that are reserved for Jewish participants in the service. Where barriers to participation for Jewish Adjacent members wishing to participate in a service exist, alternative and creative wording or roles will be explored.

Each High Holy Days, our Senior Rabbi invites Jewish Adjacent members to the bima for a special blessing that recognizes the critical importance that they play in our community. This tradition leaves much of the sanctuary in tears.

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