Many Jewish organizations pride themselves on being welcoming, but is that our end goal? Feeling welcomed is nice, but intentional steps need to be taken to help people feel like more than visitors. We want our members to feel included and a sense of belonging, to find their place within the community.
This goes for all of our members, and especially for interfaith families. As studies show, 72% of non- Orthodox Jews marry outside their faith. It is important that these families feel that the Nashville Jewish community is their home and a place for them to build community, learn, and grow.
Jimmy Marks, Temple’s President says, “I believe it is important for congregations and Jewish institutions to engage the interfaith and multi-faith families. It is incumbent upon us to stretch ourselves to engage these families to ensure the Jewish family members feel comfortable to practice their faith while allowing their family members to support them and feel as they belong to our community. As a congregation we have accomplished much in the past twenty years to be more welcoming and inclusive. But we must not be content for there is always more we can and should do.”
Senior Rabbi Mark Schiftan says, “The Temple is rolling out a targeted, four point plan designed to coherently and cohesively meet this challenge. Each of the points is specifically designed towards this emerging demographic, which includes an substantial outreach effort to these targeted populations in emerging Jewish neighborhoods.”
These four programs include the following:
—Are You Jew-ish, To-oish?: A regular brunch and learn with opportunity for 20 somethings and 30 somethings, who are either returning or entirely new to Nashville. These will be held in restaurants in Germantown, the Gulch, Downtown and East Nashville.
—Outreach Coffee and Conversations and One-on-Ones with newcomers and returnees to Nashville with the Temple’s part-time Outreach Coordinator, focused on those same targeted geographic areas.
— New “18 Door” programs for interfaith and multi-faith couples.
Rabbi Michael Shulman is currently an 18 Doors Rukin Rabbinic Fellow. Through this prestigious two year fellowship, he is part of a cohort with other rabbis to deepen their practices of working with interfaith couples and families. With new knowledge and information from his colleagues and mentors, Rabbi Shulman is introducing exciting and new programs for interfaith couples this summer on diverse topics as well as a four week course of deeper conversation.
— Food for (Interfaith and Multifaith) Thought
The Temple is also planning a new program for the upcoming year that will be focused on food and holidays. The program will be for interfaith families that will meet five times throughout the year and learn how to cook holiday centered food from a well-known Nashville chef. This innovative program will have these families connect with one another, bond over food, and learn about both Jewish and other faiths’ holidays.
Sheri Rosenberg, Temple’s Director of Membership and Inclusion, says, “This new program is exciting for me to be able to provide for the community, as well as to personally participate with my husband. Many interfaith programs focus solely on Jewish customs, culture, and beliefs. We know that is not always the way all couples celebrate holidays; many times they celebrate both in some capacity. Now with this program, couples can learn about and honor both religion’s traditions.”
Rabbi Shana Mackler added, “We are strengthened by the gifts and diversity that all members of our community bring. With these endeavors that build upon our foundation and ongoing practice of inclusion, we explicitly invite those in our community who by their love for members of the Jewish people have become part of our family, to join us in these meaningful ways. We value our interfaith families, and honor their relationships: as spouses or parents, children or grandparents. We hope this will help deepen those relationships by coming together to share experiences, to learn, pray, celebrate and connect, in the ways that are most comfortable to them, and to know they are not alone.”
For more information regarding any of these programs or the Temple in general, please reach out to Sheri Rosenberg firstname.lastname@example.org.