As in many synagogues nationwide, some Tucson congregations are giving recognition to non-Jewish members of interfaith families during High Holiday services, while others simply include non-Jewish members as they do throughout the year.
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, says Rabbi Robert Eisen of Congregation Anshei Israel, he pointed out that a copy of Edud: Passionate and Compassionate Outreach to Intermarried Families, by Rabbi Jerome Epstein, was on all seats. Eisen says that every year the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism publishes a pamphlet on a specific topic for distribution on the High Holidays.
Recognizing non-Jewish family members, says Eisen, shows “an interchange between Torah and the world we live in. We have to embrace the values of society with the arms of Torah.”
Congregation Ner Tamid has introduced a new prayerbook this year that references “those who support Jews,” says Rabbi Shafir Lobb. On Yom Kippur, she says she will honor non-Jewish family members during the service by asking them to “please rise if they feel comfortable doing so” or to accept the gratitude of the congregation if they remain seated.
It’s often the non-Jewish parent who is more involved with a child’s Jewish education at Ner Tamid, says Lobb. “There’s a kid who wouldn’t be in Hebrew school if it wasn’t for his non-Jewish mother” insisting that he attend, she says.
Rabbi Thomas Louchheim says that at Congregation Or Chadash, both Jewish and non-Jewish members are invited to participate in services throughout the year, including on the High Holidays.
At Temple Emanu-El, “we have such extensive outreach programs, including the largest Taste of Judaism program in the world,” says Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, that “highlighting our ongoing and dedicated commitment to outreach during the High Holidays seems almost like tokenism.”
“We integrate interfaith families completely into our congregation” all year, he says.