I attended the Welcoming Interfaith Families program today. Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, it included speakers from a number of organizations involved in various forms of outreach to interfaith couples. There was also a break out session for the discussion of a variety of topics, as well as an opportunity for all those in attendance to ask questions and offer comments. The take away for me was that times are changing – for the better.
It was clear that the experiences of the interfaith couples who spoke at the conference today were light years away from the experiences of interfaith couples thirty years ago. The younger couples’ experiences included attempts to make them feel welcome from the very start, without the need to individually come forward and identify themselves as interfaith couples. The organizations and congregations they had come in contact with made it a general practice to be welcoming. When you think about it, welcoming extends beyond interfaith families and to Jews who are not quite at home in a formal Jewish setting, too.
So how were these organizations and congregations welcoming? Some literally made the attempt to greet each individual who attended services while others had Rabbis who said aloud during services that those of other faiths were welcome at the service. The former made everyone feel welcome. The latter created an atmosphere where persons of another faith could relax and not worry that they’d slip up or call attention to themselves.
It was refreshing to learn of these attempts and to see the difference they made to the couples who had experienced them. It was especially refreshing that this program was put together by the Jewish Federation, with the express goal of opening a dialogue on ways to welcome interfaith families and couples.
More information and resources from today are available here.
This is the first in a series of posts about welcoming interfaith families.