Welcome, Interfaith Families!
Beth Shalom warmly opens its doors and hearts to all types of Jewish families and to our non-Jewish members. Whether or not you are affiliated with another religious institution, this synagogue is a place you can call “home.” Including people who are part of our Jewish family is important to us. We hope that you will want, as we do, for your inclusion to be permanent. You are part of our family.
Interfaith Families and Participation
Who is a Beth Shalom Member?
Membership at Beth Shalom is not reserved just for those who are Jewish. Spouses, partners, and significant others of Jewish members are equally welcome as members. Even if a Jewish spouse dies, or a couple divorces, the membership rights of the non-Jewish partner continue. In addition, any custodial parent of a Jewish child may join our congregation.
All members of Beth Shalom, Jewish and non-Jewish, have voting rights at congregational meetings. While a few positions on our Board of Directors are designated only for Jewish members, non-Jewish members are involved in all aspects of our congregation’s governance and volunteering. They may serve on committees and become involved in a wide array of congregational leadership positions and activities. The Beth Shalom Sisterhood invites all women in the congregation to be active members. Our Men’s Club similarly welcomes all men in the congregation into its activities. You are included!
Our worship services are always open to you and to the public. You are invited to participate in our services with the congregation in any way that you feel comfortable. Please pray and sing along with us, whenever you feel inspired to do so. Our Siddur (prayer book) has both Hebrew and English prayers and contains transliteration for the Hebrew prayers to help all to follow along and participate.
If you or a loved one, Jewish or non-Jewish, is in need of prayers for healing, we will be glad to include the names on our MiSheberakh (Prayer for Healing) list. Please contact our office to let us know. Visit also the Services section in our website, where you’ll find many resources to help make services more accessible and meaningful.
Study: An Important Part of Jewish Life
All adult study opportunities at Beth Shalom are open to all. Participating in our Adult Education programs will enhance your appreciation of Judaism, and give your own participation within our congregation a broader perspective and added meanings.
Our annual offering of “Introduction to Judaism” provides ten weekly evenings of learning on central aspects of Judaism and living Jewishly. It is taught by several area rabbis from different local congregations, including Rabbi Edery. This course is particularly helpful for those who are parents of Jewish children, those thinking of conversion to Judaism, and those marrying a Jew and wanting to know more about what being a Jew means. In the fall semester, the course meets on Wednesday evenings, at Temple Beth Or in Raleigh (see Adult Education Section, or contact our rabbi or Office for details).
Basic adult Hebrew courses, whenever available, will facilitate your worship with us. And, if you have children who are learning Hebrew, you will be more able to help them with their homework (and they will help you!).
Interfaith Families and Life Cycle Events
Beth Shalom honors and recognizes every marriage, whether it is between two Jews, a Jew and a non-Jew, a man and a woman, or two people of the same gender. Rabbi Edery officiates at interfaith marriage ceremonies when the couple also plans to have Judaism present in their family life. Our synagogue may be the venue for these weddings. Also, our rabbi may participate in civil marriage ceremonies for interfaith couples, when certain conditions are met. Similar standards apply for a pre-nuptial blessing at the synagogue during a worship service. For more information, please contact Rabbi Edery for a time to meet and discuss your plans.
Your Jewish Child
Beth Shalom, and more broadly, Reform Judaism, considers the child of a Jewish parent and a non-Jewish parent, by birth or by adoption, who is raised as a Jew, to be Jewish here at Beth Shalom. The fact that the child has a non-Jewish parent does not diminish the child’s Jewishness in any way. Please ask the rabbi if you have questions about what is meant by “raising one’s child as a Jew,” or if you wonder about how your child’s Jewish status is perceived among Conservative or Orthodox Jews, or in Israel.
Non-Jewish parents and grandparents may enjoy significant roles in raising a Jewish child, beginning with the Baby Naming or Brit Milah (Covenant of Circumcision). While the latter ritual may sound frightening to some, your rabbi is glad to help make the occasion joyous for you and all members of the family. In many interfaith families in which the children are being raised as Jews, the non-Jewish parents often play key roles in providing for their children’s Jewish education and in creating a supportive Jewish home. We view such parents as providers of a precious gift and a blessing to the Jewish people.
Please contact our rabbi to discuss these rituals, as soon as you know that you are expecting. He can offer you an array of suggestions and guide you. Visit the Life Cycle section of our website for more information on birth-related rituals and ceremonies.
When a Loved One Dies
Beth Shalom, your congregation and rabbi, are here for you during your time of loss. Whether or not your loved one is a member, or is Jewish or non-Jewish, we will seek to provide comfort during your time of need. We also honor the names of all relatives of members at all occasions when we read the names of deceased loved ones at our worship services. Whether they are Jewish or not does not make a difference when honoring their memory.
What Do We Do When Someone Dies?
All members, Jewish or non-Jewish, may be buried in Raleigh’s Hebrew Cemetery. In fact, all non-Jewish spouses of Jewish members are eligible for burial in the cemetery. Our rabbi will officiate at all funeral services for non-Jewish members, if that is the wish of the deceased and/or the family, and the ceremony is not in conflict with Jewish tradition as we understand it at Beth Shalom.
Rabbi Edery performs funeral services for any member, or a member of their family, whether the services occur at a funeral home, at another cemetery, or at another appropriate location. Please consult the rabbi with any questions, at any time. Learn more in the Life Cycle section of our website.
Have You Considered Conversion?
Occasionally, a person who has participated as a member of our congregation (at times for many years) will decide to fully embrace our tradition and become a Jew. While non-Jews are more than welcome to continue their affiliation and involvement for a lifetime without ever becoming Jewish, we are both honored and happy when someone chooses to embrace our tradition and covenant.
We encourage and support conversion for those for whom that choice is appropriate. This is obviously a very personal decision, and so our rabbi will meet with you to consider your specific needs and goals, and craft with you a course of action leading to a formal conversion ceremony. This process includes elements of studying, practice, and engagement in Jewish life, guided closely by our rabbi. Please speak with our rabbi to initiate a conversation on this important process. You will find more detailed info and resources in the Life Cycle section of our website, in the “Choosing Judaism/Conversion” section.
If you ever have any questions, about your rights and privileges as a member, about Judaism, or about a subject we have not covered here, please contact the rabbi, our Membership VP, any of our staff, or any of our officers and leaders. You are one of us, a member of Beth Shalom. We are eager to be your spiritual home and your extended family. Please let us know whenever we can do better, and of course we want to know what we are doing well!
Some Helpful and Interesting Links: