|Hear one interfaith family's testimony|
From its humble beginnings as an intimate community of families, Congregation B’nai Torah has prided itself on being forward-thinking and innovative in recognizing the changing nature of modern American Jewish life. As such, the leaders and professional staff not only welcome those who are exploring Judaism for the first time, but also feel it is important to help provide the tools and resources needed so that everyone feels comfortable in the synagogue and able to practice Jewish rituals and traditions at home. We believe that non-Jewish parents and grandparents can share the joy of raising Jewish children and grandchildren. We respect the right of couples and families to self-identify as “interfaith” if they wish to be included in more targeted programming and discussion groups in this area, but consider every family that seeks to belong to our community equally and authentically Jewish. Congregation B’nai Torah members who are not Jewish may join and participate in any of the synagogue’s Committees and may be elected to the Board of Trustees. In the area of ritual, we embrace all immediate and extended members, and encourage participation in prayer, worship and life-cycle ceremonies.
In particular, non-Jewish parents of Bar or Bat Mitzvah students are able to participate fully in the service – including the Torah service – to the extent that they desire. The Rabbi meets with each and every family on several occasions prior to the Bar or Bat Mitzvah itself, and takes care to explain the meaning of the rituals and the variety of ways in which family members may take part in the ceremony itself.
We recognize that every family in our midst is different and will have varying questions and needs. One of the most important and active groups at Congregation B’nai Torah is the Interfaith Committee. The individuals in this heterogenous group share commonalities in the realm of interfaith family experiences, and provide education as well as support to those individuals and families who seek to deepen their connection to Judaism and the congregational community. The Interfaith Committee has expanded and evolved over the years to include programs and discussions in the area of comparative religion. We are fortunate to have Christian and Moslem congregational neighbors whose clergy and membership share our interest in building bridges of understanding and cooperation with one another.
Evan, Patty, Sabrina, and Ian Bleicher are an interfaith family who joined Congregation B'nai Torah 20 years ago, and have been members ever since. Patty delivered a short but touching speech at a recent temple event, about their experience as an interfaith family at B'nai Torah. Here is what she had to say.
"Twenty-seven years ago, when Evan and I got married, when this nice Jewish boy married this nice Catholic girl, we decided that we were going to raise our family Jewish. I don't think I completely understood what I was getting into. It's been so much more wonderful than I ever, ever could have known. Congregation B'nai Torah has been there for all of it. We had a false start with another temple, where we did not feel welcome. But we came here, to CBT, and this has been our home ever since. Rabbi Boaz Heilman [now Rabbi emeritus] performed his very first naming ceremony for our daughter. We did the B'nai Mitzvot for both of our children; and I can tell you that the ceremonies made my very stoic sister-in-law cry (in a good way!). My mother, who is as devout a Catholic as you could possibly imagine, was completely moved by both ceremonies. I think that CBT won her over, just absolutely won her over, and she understands now why we made this decision. So, for all these years, CBT has been our spiritual home, and we couldn't be more grateful. B'nai Torah has played a huge part in our lives, and the lives of our children. Thank you so much!"