Rosh Hashanah: Mixed Faith Families, Mix-and-Match Honey and Apples


Some interesting things from around the interwebnet-tubes today as the countdown to Rosh Hashanah rolls on.

The first item that was brought to my attention by the ever-devoted Dr. Marion Usher, who runs our interfaith couples workshops, is an advertisement from last week’s Washington Jewish Week. 

adas ad -jpeg -contrast

The ad is your typical “Shana Tova” listing from Adas Israel, the largest conservative congregation in-town, except for two details, both of which, I think are very encouraging. First, the ad announces that no tickets are required to attend Erev Rosh Hashanah services on Friday, September 18 at 8:00 pm. Which is nice. More shuls should try and break-through the pay-for-pray perception (which to some extent is reality) which plague large congregations with “no ticket required” High Holiday services. More remarkable is the text underneath which reads,

“Rabbi Gil Steinlauf will usher in the High Holy Day season with a major address on Keruv (outreach) to dual faith families. All are welcome.”

 I don’t know that I recall the last time I saw a rabbi’s sermon topic advertised as a “major address” on a specific topic — kind of like the President addressing Congress on healthcare. But I kinda like it. And the implication is that Rabbi Steinlauf will be using one of the most high-profile nights of the Jewish year to both welcome dual faith families to his congregation, as well as to make the case that this kind of outreach is crucial to the future of his synagogue and the Conservative Movement. It is a commendable act, and I hope it finds a wide and receptive audience. In the meantime, if you’re between 21-35 years-old and are still looking for a service for the Holidays, visit EntryPointDC/Gesher City’s comprehensive marketplace (insert irony) of free and cheap tickets.

The second item comes from the good folks at Tablet who went to the trouble of scientifically combining apples and honey to find the ideal combination. The results, are not kind on the Bear Squeeze Bottle-variety honey — which now makes me self-conscious about my own Yogi & Boo-Boo Bear-inspired purchases. I’m not surprised I could do better, but somehow I feel like we owe the Bear Bottle honey some respect for its uncomplaining work-a-day reliability. Are they abusive to bees or something? Where’s the love?

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7 Responses

  1. Intermarriage is wrong and Rabbi shouldn’t endorse it as beig equal to inmarriage. Jewish inmarriage is the best way to insure a Jewish family. Welcoming the intermarried without any regard to the Torah will only lead to the extinction of the Conservative Jewish community. One only needs to look at Reform to see where that got them.

    • Respectfully, I think your response, while earnest and concerned frames the debate in an overly binary way: Inmarriage= Life and Intermarriage=Exctinction. I don’t think it is that simple, nor has it ever been. The choice is not between intermarriage and inmarriage. But accepting that intermarriage is a fact in a free pluralistic society, so how do we best connect with the Jewish half of these couples along with their partners in a meaningful way.

    • I worry that attitudes like yours are more hurtful than helpful. If a person loves a Jewish person enough to embrace their beliefs…all the better. To be considered a less valid Jewish family seems unfair.

      And, Jews marrying only Jews = a whole lot of inbred Jews.

  2. JWR sounds like a anti-semite, like most radical secular Jews. The phrase “inbred Jews” sounds like it could be straight out of the Aryan nation handbook. You’re probably not a real Jew anyway or intemarried with Gentile children. You seem to think Gentiles are superior to Jews. Well I don’t and I don’t want the Jewish people to become extinct.

    Your opinion that a Gentile who “embraces” Jewish beliefs for their Jewish partner is legit, couldn’t be farther from the truth. Once the relationship is over so is the Gentile’s “Jewish beliefs.” I’ve seen that happen many times.

    Jews marrying Jews = A whole lot of real Jews. I can’t believe I’m actually arguing with an anti-semite at a Jewish blog. The Jewish community is under attack everywhere.

    I do consider an intermarrige less valid as a Jewish family than a marriage with two Jews. A Gentile woman can’t raise Jewish children. Only Jewish women can raise Jewish children. That’s the truth!

  3. I hope more shuls follow Adas’s lead–which is being welcoming of everyone. Anyone who is curious about Judaism, who is interested in attending services, can attend with the way they have set this up–both financially and topic-wise. And being inclusive can only be a good thing, keeping more people interested in being part of the community.

    I think the downfall to Judaism will be exclusivity in all of its forms. Those who can’t afford to join a shul and feel that sting of not being able to be part of their community of choice (going where they wish to worship and not have the choice made for them) will leave. Those who want to send their kids to Jewish schools but can’t afford the prices will send them instead of public school. Those who feel that they are an invisible member of the greater community will leave.

    People go where they feel wanted. I know that was a big reason why my husband and I chose our shul–they tell us in numerous, non-verbal ways that they want us there. Not that they want warm bodies, but they want US. And because we feel wanted, we stay and are active members.

    I think our focus needs to not be on defining who is a real Jew and who is not, and instead focus on how we can keep the people who show interest and even entice more people to walk through the door.

  4. I tripped across this on the internet… I am the Rabbi of a community, and first I should say that a Conservative “synagogue” is not a synagogue, and a Conservative “Rabbi” is not a Rabbi. And again, Jewish words are being used for non-Jewish (or anti-Jewish) activities, which is a desecration of Hashem’s name.
    The idea of holding services without tickets required is an interesting one- indeed, the “pay for pray” perception is a global problem. My worry would be that one is that many communities are deeply in debt, and that attendance on Rosh Hashana is many times one’s usual attendance- and we desperately need that money. This is money which keeps the community going for at least a month. Ticket-free services are a perk which well-off communities may be able to offer, but it’s much more difficult for communities in imminent danger of financial collapse.
    My approach has been to speak to people whom I know do not feel comfortable paying, and offer to subsidize their tickets. Thus, most people pay, and most people think everyone has paid, but some people (students, unemployed people, people with low income) get that money returned to them after the holiday when nobody sees. So far it has been somewhat successful. I wish we had the luxury to have ticket-free Rosh Hashana’s, etc.

  5. […] rolls on. The first item that was brought to my attention by the ever-devoted Dr. Marion Usher, who Read More » Share and Enjoy:Tags: attention, honey, match, Today, UsherThe Blog at 16th and Q »Related […]

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