Interfaith Families

The prophet Isaiah said: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7) We know from the Torah that from the very earliest days, there have been individuals who lived with the Jewish community but who were not Jewish themselves. Today we live alongside those of other faiths and intermarriage has become a reality of Jewish existence. Since our inception, our community has extended a warm welcome to interfaith couples and families. In fact we have Jewish members of interfaith families serving on our Board of Directors! Here are some frequently asked questions about how interfaith individuals and families can find themselves at home at Or Hadash:

Are there parts of the service reserved only for Jews?

Everyone, regardless of faith, is welcome at all our services and lifecycle events. Although leading services and certain other roles must be undertaken by those of the Jewish faith, everyone is welcome to participate in everything that is done or read by the whole congregation. If you have specific questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.

I don’t read Hebrew. How can I possibly follow the service?

We use both English and Hebrew in the services and provide English translations for all of the Hebrew prayers and readings. If you wish to participate in reading the Hebrew aloud, transliterations for common prayers in the service are included in the prayer book. It is perfectly acceptable to read only the parts of the service with which you feel comfortable or to just sit and listen. If you need help finding the place in the prayer book, simply ask someone nearby as all our members want participants to feel welcome and at ease during services.

What is the best way to learn more about Judaism? I don’t want to take a “conversion” class.

The Reform Movement offers many basic Judaism courses which cover topics such as Jewish ideas about God, Torah and other Jewish texts, or how to celebrate the holidays and Jewish life-cycle events, which provides you with an opportunity to pose your own questions about Jewish life, belief and practice. While some of those who take these classes may be considering conversion, many take them for other reasons. The classes can be particularly helpful to those who are not Jewish themselves but are considering raising a Jewish child and to those who wish to be more comfortable at Jewish family events. Please contact us, if you have any questions.

Will I be pressured to convert if I join a synagogue?

No! Our community takes delight in welcoming those who choose to embrace Judaism as their own religion. Our Sages however, have made it very clear that a conversion is not valid, if it results from any pressure or coercion. You are welcome at any of our events as a friend of the Jewish people. You do not have to convert.

As an interfaith couple, we wonder what choices we have in planning our wedding.

Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your options.

If a Jew marries a non-Jew, what are the children?

Under Jewish law only children born of a Jewish mother or those who have converted are consisdered Jewish. This position has been upheld by all Reform communities in the Greater Toronto Area.

Religious identity involves making a choice, so how do we choose how to raise our children and who should make the decision?

Children depend on their parents to teach them about identity in many areas of life. Interfaith couples must make this decision for themselves and their children. It is often observed that children who are given roots in one tradition are more likely to feel a secure sense of belonging. Children who are raised in both traditions too often feel that they do not truly belong in either community. This is a highly personal decision for parents to make and should be approached with respect for both traditions. Often couples find it helpful to contend with these issues in the context of an interfaith couples group. For referral to such a program, or other advice, please contact us.

We are considering enrolling our child in a religious school. Are parents who are not Jews welcome to participate in religious school classrooms and events?

Jewish tradition puts a high value on family life. We encourage both parents to be involved in their child’s religious school experience and we welcome your participation.

What about the non-Jewish grandparents? Can they be part of my Jewish child’s life?

Yes! A child who knows his or her grandparents is a fortunate child. All grandparents are welcome to attend services and events at the synagogue and your child’s religious school.