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Blessing for Non-Jewish Spouses and Partners on the Bimah at Yom Kippur Services

A Ritual for Yom Kippur Morning and Family Services
Adapted by Rabbi Paul Kipnes (Congregation Or Ami, Calabasas)
from Blessings Written by Rabbis Janet Marder and Denise Eger

[Background: At Congregation Or Ami, we honor and value all members of our community, including and especially those non-Jewish spouses and partners who have chosen to raise their children as Jews. The depth of our outreach and support is evident in the award-winning webpage for interfaith couples and families (http://www.orami.org/outreach/interfaith) which states “No one is more welcome at Or Ami than you.” Non-Jewish spouses are fully integrated into our community, standing on the bima as their children become Bar/Bat Mitzvah and sharing other simchas and sorrows with the congregation. We recognize the special gift and sacrifices our non-Jewish members make to raise their children as Jews. So at Yom Kippur services, just before we sang the Mi Chamocha prayer, we called them to the bima to bless them. I did not write this blessing. I thank my colleagues Rabbi Janet Marder who wrote this blessing, and Rabbi Denise Eger who helped me integrate it into the service. ]

Today I want to recognize and publicly acknowledge for the first time some very important people in our congregation. They are part of Congregation Or Ami because, somewhere along the way, they happened to fall in love with a Jewish man or woman, and that decision changed their life. I want to let you know in advance that in a few moments I am going to be calling up all non-Jewish spouses and partners to come to the bima for a special blessing of thanks and appreciation.

I hope that you will not be embarrassed or upset that I am singling you out in this way. The last thing I want is to make you feel uncomfortable. What I do want is to tell you how much you matter to our congregation, and how very grateful we are for what you have done.

You are a very diverse group of people. Some of you are living a Jewish life in virtually all respects. Some of you are devoutly committed to another faith. Some of you do not define yourselves as religious at all. You fall at all points along this spectrum, and we acknowledge and respect your diversity.

What we want to thank you for today is your decision to cast your lot with the Jewish people by becoming part of this congregation, and the love and support you give to your Jewish partner. Most of all, we want to offer our deepest thanks to those of you who are parents, and who are raising your sons and daughters as Jews.

In our generation, which saw one-third of the world’s Jewish population destroyed, every Jewish child is especially precious. We are a very small people, and history has made us smaller. Our children mean hope, and they mean life. So every Jewish boy and girl is a gift to the Jewish future. With all our hearts, we want to thank you for your generosity and strength of spirit in making the ultimate gift to the Jewish people.

Please, please…do not be shy and do not feel uncomfortable. It is important that we show you how much you have our love and respect, and there is no better time to say that than on the most important day in the Jewish year. Please come up now, and receive the heartfelt gratitude of your congregation.

[Music is played as non-Jewish spouses and partners come up on the bima]

You are the moms and dads who drive the carpool for Mishpacha, Kesher and Temple Teen Night. You help explain to your kids why it’s important to get up on Sunday morning or to come to Temple midweek, and to learn to be a Jew. You take classes and read Jewish books to deepen your own understanding, so you can help to make a Jewish home. You learn to make kugel and latkes; you try to like gefilte fish; you learn to put on a Seder; you build a Sukkah in the backyard. You join your spouse at the Shabbat table – maybe you even set that Shabbat table and make it beautiful.

You come to services, even when it feels strange and confusing at first. You hum along to those Hebrew songs, and some of you even learn to read that difficult language. You stand on the bima and pass the Torah to your children on the day they become Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and tell them how proud you are and how much you love them, and how glad you are to see them grow into young Jewish men and women.

We know that some of you have paid a significant price for the generous decision you made to raise Jewish children. You have made a painful sacrifice, giving up the joy of sharing your own spiritual beliefs and passing your own religious traditions down to your kids. I hope your children and your spouse tell you often how wonderful you are, and that their love and gratitude, and our love and gratitude, will be some compensation, and will bring you joy.

In your honor, I now ask our congregation to rise, and repeat after me as we offer you this ancient blessing from the Torah…

Yivarechecha Adonai V’yishm’recha – May God bless you and watch over you;

Yair Adonai Panav Eilecha Vi-chuneka – May the light of the Holy One shine upon you and be gracious unto you.

Yisa Adonai Panav Eilecha, V’yasem l’cha Shalom – May God be with you always and grant you the precious gift of peace.

It was Pharoah’s daughter, a non-Israelite (a non-Jew) nurtured that baby, who became Moses our leader, who saved our people from Egyptian slavery and received Torah for us and brought us to the gateway to the Promised Land. Similarly, you nurture your children, ensuring they grow up connected to the Jewish people. What you are doing is no less than miraculous. You are ensuring that Jewish values, Jewish tradition, and Or Ami continues to shine brightly. Thank you for being the miracle in our lives.

Todah Rabbah Lachem – Thank you all very much.

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