SYN­A­GOGUES TO VOTE ON AD­MIT­TING NON-JEWS

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LUCY CO­HEN BLAT­TER

NEXT MONTH, the United Syn­a­gogue of Con­ser­va­tive Ju­daism, an um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion that in­cludes 577 Con­ser­va­tive shuls in the US, will ask its mem­bers to vote on a res­o­lu­tion that would al­low non-Jews to be­come mem­bers.

Cur­rently, the USCJ — to which 80 per cent of Con­ser­va­tive syn­a­gogues in North Amer­ica be­long — re­stricts shul mem­ber­ship to Jews only.

With the res­o­lu­tion, the group’s Stan­dards for Con­gre­ga­tional Prac­tice would be up­dated to say: “USCJ sup­ports ev­ery af­fil­i­ated ke­hillah in de­vel­op­ing its own cri­te­ria for mem­ber­ship.”

It is part of a push to en­gage with the grow­ing num­ber of mixed-faith fam­i­lies and en­sure that they do not feel left out of the com­mu­nity.

“It’s about hav­ing a set of stan­dards that re­flect re­al­ity and our val­ues… it needs to be up­dated,” Rabbi Steven Wer­nick, USCJ’s CEO, told the JC.

The main mis­sion of the USCJ is to en­sure “the health of our syn­a­gogue com­mu­ni­ties, and help our sa­cred com­mu­ni­ties thrive ”, said Rabbi Wer­nick.

The res­o­lu­tion was passed by the USCJ’s board and is ex­pected to get the green light from the gen­eral as­sem­bly in March, he said.

Adir Yolkut, an as­sis­tant rabbi at Westch­ester Jewish Cen­tre in the New York City sub­urbs, said that while they were cer­tainly not the ma­jor­ity, there were al­ready mem­bers of his Con­ser­va­tive syn­a­gogue with im­me­di­ate fam­ily who were not Jewish. He was there­fore not sur­prised to hear of the pend­ing res­o­lu­tion. “This falls in line with the ide­ol­ogy of the Con­ser­va­tive move­ment — they’re go­ing to give you op­tions and syn­a­gogues can make in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sions.”

“This is not about is­sues of Jewish iden­tity, and is­sues of in­ter­mar­riage,” stressed Rabbi Wer­nick. “This is about peo­ple who are con­nected to the Jewish com­mu­nity through mar­riage that al­ready be­long or want to be­long to our shuls. We want to be able to say, ‘yes, you’re mem­bers of our com­mu­nity’. Syn­a­gogues will still have to in­di­vid­u­ally deal with is­sues of who can sit on their boards, and who can par­tic­i­pate in re­li­gious ser­vices. But what we’ re do­ing here is try­ing to build a dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ing a mem­ber of the com­mu­nity as op­posed to a mem­ber of the covenant.”

Our stan­dards need to re­flect re­al­ity’

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