Tag: Interfaith

President Susan Gould Mixes Warmth and Wisdom in Biennial Presentation

I’m sitting here with Or Ami congregant Kim Gubner, as we listen to our President Susan Gould talk about our national award-winning program, No One is More Welcomed at Or Ami Than You. It won a Belin Outreach Award from the Union of Reform Judaism. The program is really a website that focuses on warmly welcoming interfaith couples and families.

Susan is mixing warmth, humor (her own wonderful sense of humor)… Oops, she just pointed me out and now she thinks I’m not listening to her. (Susan, I am… actually I’m writing about your wonderful presentation!)

People are transfixed by her presentation. They are taking notes. Susan is great.

Let’s see if our interfaith webpage gets more hits after the Biennial.

Welcoming Interfaith Families

I am amazed, each time I meet with an interfaith family, that they need to ask (in round about ways) whether the warm welcome and full integration that we offer to all Or Ami congregants is available to interfaith families as well. No one comes out and asks it directly, but I find it to be an undercurrent in the conversation.

Pleased that we offer a truly warm welcome to any individual or family who has chosen to create a Jewish home (and, if there are children, to raise them as Jews), we decided to put this into writing. We hope now that our Or Ami website is clear and true to the warm welcome we offer.

Our welcome begins:

My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7)

No one is more welcomed at Congregation Or Ami than you!

Congregation Or Ami, like all Reform Jewish congregations, holds the mitzvah (religious responsibility) of ahavat ger (welcoming the stranger) among the most important tenets of our faith. We actively welcome interfaith families into our communities and encourage their participation in our synagogues. We work to empower people to make Jewish choices for themselves and their families and strive to provide resources to inform educated decisions. We strive to be welcoming places for people of diverse religious backgrounds, sexual orientations and ethnic backgrounds.

Many couples that begin with two individuals from different backgrounds need to integrate separate lives into one family. And for interfaith couples and their families that integration also includes differing religious traditions and cultures. Remember: you are not alone. Congregation Or Ami, our Rabbi Paul Kipnes and Cantor Doug Cotler and our Reform Jewish movement, welcome you. Congregation Or Ami is already proud to be a home congregation for many interfaith couples and families, and we welcome you to share in the warmth of our community. We invite you to begin a conversation with Rabbi Kipnes to share your hopes or questions about being an interfaith family at Or Ami. Read more.

I am also proud that we added to the home page of our website images that signify our openness to diversity: the blue/white wheelchair (symbolizing our openness to people with disabilities), the rainbow flag (our welcoming of gay and lesbian Jews and Jewish families), and the 12-Step Triangle (our awareness of and acceptance of people recovering from addictions and dependencies).

Resurrecting Jewish Prejucide Shames American Jewish History

Dennis Prager is at it again misguidedly mixing his politics with his misreading of our Jewish faith to declare that Representative Keith Ellison’s request to take his oath of office on the Koran is un-American, intellectually dishonest, and comparable to taking an oath upon Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He also suggests that it is not good for the Jews. Groups as diverse as the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, among others, dispute and decry Mr. Prager’s rant.

Mr. Prager, himself a kind of learned Jew and self-described student of Jewish history and literature, surely knows that the political, economic and social success of Jews has been based on our commitment to ensuring that America adhere to its openness to religions of all types without establishing by legal means or custom one religious practice or denomination over another. He knows that Jewish existence is America has been strengthened each time our American society has opened up more fully to our kind of religious life.

He should also understand that Americans – and American Jews particularly – take comfort in knowing that when our leaders to take their oath of office while holding onto the religious book (in what is essentially an unofficial public ceremony, of secondary importance to the official group swearing in), the sacred text is used to provoke their conscience to do what’s right, to uphold the promises articulated in the oath of office. For a committed Jew, as Prager knows, that book should be a Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures, not a Christian Bible (which includes the New Testament), because the former goads our conscience while the latter has no transcendent meaning for a Jew. Similarly, for a believing Muslim, that book is and should be the Koran.

To suggest that holding a Koran will lead to Islamic terrorism is akin to suggesting that holding the Christian New Testament will lead us back to Crusader murder and pillaging. It’s the misuse of a sacred text by some extremists, not the sacred text or the religion itself, which brings on to hateful violence.

We Jews have argued vigorously to remove religious tests of all kinds from our American political and judicial systems. We have fought rigorously against claims – blatant and implied – that our love for Israel leads us to a dual loyalty that makes our patriotism suspect. Remember, it was not too long ago that many Christian Americans would dispute Prager’s assumption that Jewish values are in concert with American values. We put that argument to bed decades ago. Let’s not resurrect it now for another American religious minority. Bad political ideas deserve to be buried quickly and publicly. To do so is good for the Jews and better for America.

Let the words of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of our Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, help bury Prager’s shameless rant: The criticism by Dennis Prager of Rep. Keith Ellison’s use of the Koran for taking the oath of office is irreconcilable with American law and ideals as well as Jewish values and interests. Or those of the Anti-Defamation League. Or those of the American Jewish Committee. Or those of countless Jewish bloggers like Jewschool. Of course, in the end, you decide!