Welcoming Intermarried Families
Intermarriage has caused tension in families from the time of Abraham. It probably affects each of us, either directly or indirectly. Keruv is the Jewish Conservative Movement's response to intermarriage. Northern Hills began the journey of inclusion of intermarried couples over thirty years ago.
The journey continues today. Ten percent of our membership is intermarried families; that percentage continues to grow. Conversations with our intermarried families reveal a high level of comfort and acceptance at Northern Hills. Both the Jewish and the Non-Jewish partners feel accepted and welcome. Their families participate in our community and synagogue at their levels of comfort. They participate in Northern Hills social events; educational programs; Shabbat, weekday and holiday services, and give their time and resources generously. The Jewish spouses have often served in leadership positions; the non-Jewish spouses have served on committees and been members of Northern Hills Sisterhood and Men’s Club. Their children have enrolled in our Religious school, have celebrated their bar or bat mitzvah at Northern Hills, and been members of the Youth Groups.
The following information is provided to help those who are seeking affiliation with a warm, welcoming, affordable, democratic, active synagogue community.
Services: Attendance at religious services is open to everyone, regardless of religion. While only Jews may be called to the Torah, or lead certain parts of the services, there remain many opportunities for the non-Jewish family member to participate in meaningful ways, such as reading certain passages. Following the Hebrew service can be quite challenging for some Jews and for some non-Jews alike, so transliterations and explanations of services are available in the lobby. Many visitors and new members feel “out of place”, fearing a mistake will be made. Follow the crowd, so what if you are a half beat off! Please feel free to ask someone to explain what is happening.
School: Kehilla School for Creative Jewish Education, co-sponsored with Congregation Ohav Shalom, provides educational activities for preschoolers through those in the seventh grade, and is available to the children of intermarried couples, provided the family has made a commitment that the children be raised as Jews. If the mother is not Jewish, and the child has not converted, the Rabbi and the Director of Education will gladly meet with the parents to discuss the family’s situation and develop plans for the child’s religious study and conversion. Jewish students in eighth grade and high school attend Mercaz, the community high school operated by the Conservative synagogues in Greater Cincinnati.
Education Programs and Social Activities: Northern Hills offers a wide variety of educational and social activities and encourages participation by all adults. Such programs have included Basic Siddur (Prayer book) Hebrew, Introduction to Judaism, Understanding Conservative Judaism, Torah and Talmud study, study of the prophets and other Jewish figures. Social activities have been varied, from Shabbat dinners at the synagogue and at members’ homes, summer picnics and bike rides, attendance at baseball games, concerts, bowling and game nights, to programs combining ritual and social activities, such as a “Sukkah hop”. Please check the web site frequently for programs; feel free to contact any of the Synagogue officers or staff to express ideas for programs or social events. We encourage young, intermarried families to become involved in YAKS (Young Adults, Kids Sometimes) a social group where friendships are developed and nurtured.
Naming: A Brit Milah (Bris or ritual circumcision) and baby naming ceremony for a girl mark the parents’ commitment to raising the baby as a Jew. Both parents in an interfaith marriage may participate in the blessing ceremony. Please contact the Rabbi for further information concerning this important life cycle event.
Mitzvah: The Bar Mitzvah ceremony for boys and the Bat Mitzvah ceremony for girls mark the entrance of the thirteen- year- old child into the obligations of being a Jewish adult. The young person is called to the Torah, reciting the blessings over the Torah for the first time. Most children read from the Torah and Haftorah and lead the congregation in other parts of the service. Since only Jews may be called to the Torah, a child of a non-Jewish mother must undergo a conversion ceremony prior to the bar or bat mitzvah ceremony. The non-Jewish parent and other non-Jewish relatives may participate in the ceremony in many meaningful ways. It is customary at Northern Hills for non-Jewish relatives to read English passages, recite certain blessings, and deliver messages to the young person. The arrangements for all families whether both parents are Jewish or not need to be discussed with the Rabbi in advance of the ceremony.
- Weddings: Halakha (Jewish Law) and the standards of the Conservative movement prohibit Conservative rabbis from performing or participating in interfaith marriage ceremonies. However, our rabbi welcomes the opportunity of meeting with all engaged couples to discuss the upcoming wedding and answer questions related to establishing a Jewish home.
- Conversion: The members of Northern Hills Synagogue, the Rabbi and the other professional staff recognize that the decision whether or not to convert is very personal. The Rabbi is very willing to meet with a non-Jewish fiancé or spouse to explore whether conversion is desired and to explain the conversion process. If the course of study and the conversion process are complete, the person is Jewish in all regards.
and Mourning: The cemeteries designated for members of Northern Hills Synagogue are considered hallowed Jewish ground so only Jews may be buried there. There are cemeteries within the Greater Cincinnati area that permit burial of a Jew and a non-Jewish spouse. Contact the Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati, Inc. for more information. Mourners Kaddish, recited as a memorial prayer during the mourning period and on the anniversary of a loved one’s death, may be recited for non-Jewish Relatives.
- Membership: The non-Jewish family member can serve on committees, volunteer, attend and participate in educational programs, social events, and services. While the entire family is welcomed at Northern Hills, only members of the Jewish Faith can be “full members”. Full members can serve in leadership positions, e.g. be on the Board of Trustees, be a Synagogue officer, or chair a committee or be a voting member of the Congregation.
Perhaps the best reason for KERUV is quite simply that G-d expects us to respect people of other faiths. Respecting non-Jewish spouses is not only acting in accordance with the Jewish tenet that all people are created in the image of G-d, it also holds out the greatest chance that Jews and non-Jews in interfaith marriages will want to come close to us and to the Jewish tradition. If we are open and respectful, the possibility that some of the non-Jewish spouses will choose to become Jews increases. After all, most conversions occur within the first ten years of marriage, not before marriage.
Contact the Synagogue Office (513-931-6038) for more information. Please visit us often.