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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Reform Judaism (10/12)
Section - Question 18.4.5: Fallacy: Intermarried couples have exactly the same rights as non-intermarried couples in Reform Congregations

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   Although congregational policies may differ by congregation, there are
   a number of Reform responses that address this question:
     * In [5]American Reform Responsa #10 (1982)
       it is asked if congregational membership can be extended to the
       non-Jewish member of an interfaith marriage. The conclusion of
       that responsa is that it should not; only the Jewish member should
       be considered a member for purposes of being a congregational
       leader, for it is inappropriate for non-Jews to lead the
       Some Reform congregations include non-Jewish spouses in family
       memberships (i.e., the non-Jewish spouse may be a member if the
       Jewish spouse is a member). Some congregations, as part of the
       overall autonomy of Reform, do permit the non-Jewish spouse to
       participate in some rituals. Most congregations reserve some
       religious roles for only Jewish members, and most congregations
       reserve the leadership roles, such as election to the board of
       trustees, or the holding of other offices for the member who is
     * A [7]1979 Responsa
     From Babylonian times onward, public prayers for rulers of the
     country, parallel to those for scholars and students in the
     academies, were included in the liturgy and have remained there
     ever since. These rulers, of course, were pagans, Moslems, or
     Christians. We, in modern times, have gone a number of steps
     further than this. For example, we regularly recite the names of
     non-Jewish dead in the lists of deceased read before the Kaddish.
     In most cases, these are relatives of converts; although the
     convert is not duty-bound to mourn for his parents, he should be
     encouraged to do so out of respect (Yad, Hil. Evel 2.3; Radbaz to
     Yad; Sh.A., Y.D. 374.5; and many subsequent authorities). We have,
     however, also added the names of notable Christians from time to
     time. In addition, we have participated frequently in interfaith
     services, which have generally been associated with national
     holidays or events; these have usually been non-liturgical in
     character, i.e., consisted of Biblical readings and various prayers
     without following the strict order of the service. Furthermore, we
     have invited non-Jews, including ministers and priests, to address
     our congregations during our public services. This practice has
     been widespread in the Reform and Conservative movements. Thus,
     there is no doubt that we have included priests, ministers, and
     non-Jewish participants in our services in a manner not known
     heretofore. In addition, nowadays, because of intermarriage we find
     the non-Jewish parent involved in a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It would be
     appropriate to have that parent participate in some way in the
     service, but not in the same way as a Jewish parent. For example,
     he or she should not recite the traditional blessing over the Torah
     which includes the words "asher bachar banu." It would be well if
     he/she recite a special blessing, perhaps akin to the words
     suggested by Solomon B. Freehof: "Praised be Thou, Lord our G-d,
     King of the Universe, Who has given His sacred law unto all His
     children that we may learn, observe, and serve Him in
     righteousness" (Current Reform Responsa, p. 91).
     We have, therefore, gone much further than any generation before
     our time by permitting non-Jews a larger role in our public
     services; this is part of a more open and friendly interreligious
     attitude which the Reform Movement has encouraged and led. Yet,
     these steps have remained within definite limits. We have not
     included non-Jews, no matter how friendly, in the essential
     elements of the service. If we follow the line of reasoning which
     divides between the essential service and supplemental prayers and
     statements, we may conclude that Christians, Moslems, and other
     non-Jews who fall into the category of Benei Noach may participate
     in a public service in any of the following ways: (1) through
     anything which does not require specific statement from them, i.e.,
     by standing and silently witnessing whatever is taking place (e.g.,
     as a member of a wedding party or as a pallbearer); (2) through the
     recitation of special prayers added to the service at
     non-liturgical community wide services, commemorations, and
     celebrations (Thanksgiving, etc.); (3) through the recitation of
     prayers for special family occasions (Bar/Bat Mitzvah of children
     raised as Jews, at a wedding or funeral, etc.). All such prayers
     and statements should reflect the mood of the service and be
     non-Christological in nature.
   In many Reform congregations, intermarried couples now have more or
   less the same rights as non-intermarried couples in terms of
   congregational membership. The key element is "couples"; membership is
   based on the family unit, not the individual. Often, the non-Jewish
   partner serves on temple committees, but usually those committees do
   not include those related to religious practice and ritual (for
   example, a finance or employment practices committee). A survery
   conducted by the Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach shows that 88%
   of Reform Temples allow gentiles to count as Reform Jews by being
   synagogue members if they are married to Reform Jews; 87% of Reform
   Temples allow gentiles to serve on synagogue committees, but only 22%
   of Reform Temples allow gentiles to have an aliyah to the Torah.

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