SYNAGOGUES TO VOTE ON ADMITTING NON-JEWS
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’