Other Faith Members at Congregation Shir Shalom
Congregation Shir Shalom is both a reform and reconstructionist congregation dedicated to creating a caring and inclusive community, and to enhancing Jewish practice in the lives of our members. Consistent with this philosophy, we are committed to seriously engaging with Jewish tradition, challenging that tradition where need be, and building on the tradition in creative ways. We view education for ourselves and our children as fundamental to Jewish life. We are a participatory congregation, encouraging all of our members to take an active role in some aspect of our congregational life. We value diversity in our congregation, and welcome all those who share our commitments.
These values also apply to our approach to welcoming our members from other faith backgrounds: inclusivity, diversity, and commitment to shared values and to Jewish tradition. While there are non-Jewish partners of our Jewish members who choose not to become involved in the congregation, there are also many non-Jewish members who participate actively and meaningfully in the life of our community. The purpose of this statement is to help clarify what it means to be a non-Jewish member of a caring and inclusive congregation that is dedicated to Jewish practice and learning.
Who can be a member of Congregation Shir Shalom?
Our bylaws state: “Any adult Jewish person and his or her spouse may be elected upon approval of their application. Additionally, any person who wishes to associate him or herself with the temple may apply for membership.” Membership here refers to having a full vote at our membership meetings, and other benefits (e.g., High Holy days tickets, participation in member-only events), as well as relevant obligations (e.g., paying dues and fees).
How do non-Jewish members participate in our community?
Non-Jewish members of Congregation Shir Shalom have been involved in, and taken leadership in, many aspects of our communal life, including taking part in adult education classes, serving as class parents in the religious school and as members of the Education Committee, participating in Shabbat morning services and other celebrations, taking action through our Tikkun Olam committee, and more. Non-Jewish parents are often deeply involved in their children’s Jewish education, supporting their children’s Jewish journeys in many ways, from driving a Hebrew School carpool to learning Hebrew to participating in family education programs.
In the realm of chesed (acts of loving kindness that bind us together as a community), there is no distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish members of Congregation Shir Shalom. Everyone is asked to participate as a giver by making a meal for someone in need, visiting someone who is ill, attending a shivah minyan (a gathering to support a mourner so they can say Mourner’s Kaddish) or a welcoming ceremony for a child. And anyone can ask for help at a time of illness, death, or other crisis. Both the rabbi and the larger community are here to help all of our members in need. When a non-Jewish member suffers the loss of a parent or other close relative, s/he should be in touch with the rabbi to discuss options for mourning practices.
We recognize that we are all on a journey, and that at some point our non-Jewish members may become interested in formally taking on Jewish status through a process of conversion. The duration and content of this process varies according to each individual situation, but generally speaking there is one-year period of study and meeting with the rabbi in preparation for immersion in the mikvah (ritual bath) and meeting with a beit din (panel of three community leaders) who formally welcome the convert. Please call the rabbi if you are interested in exploring the possibility of conversion.
We hope that this information is helpful, but also recognize that these are large and complicated issues. Please feel free to call Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein at (716) 633-8877 if you would like to discuss any of these topics in more depth.