As I hope you recall, on Rosh Hashanah morning I gave a sermon that focused on the subject of synagogue membership. In particular, I raised questions about whether someone who is not Jewish, and not married to a Jew, could become a member of Temple Beth Torah. The full text of the sermon is available here.
In response to my sermon, a number of individuals shared with me their opinions – some in conversation, others in writing. Given the nature of the topic, it is not surprising that there has been a diversity of views about changing our rules for membership.
Some people were fully in favor of allowing anyone who wants to join TBT to be able to do so. One member wrote: “We, the Jewish people have throughout history been persecuted and still are on the edge of the same in this day and age. We know how it feels to be pushed aside and not respected as a human being. Therefore, I believe that if a person wishes to become a member of our congregation and embrace out ideals and beliefs as Jews, we should show some compassion in allowing them to join our congregation and worship with us. At a later time they may feel the need to convert and not be on the outside.
After all how do we know who in our congregation was born Jewish or may not even have converted before becoming a part of our ‘Jewish’ family? There is no test or review we must take to belong to our congregation even now and if a person wishes to join, I believe we should welcome them as a Jewish Friend.”
Others expressed the view that someone who is not Jewish could become a member but with some restrictions, such as “touching the Torah.” Another stated, “My opinion on non-Jews as members (apart from spouses of Jews) is that the Temple could recognize them with the status of ‘Supporter’. They could make regular contributions and would have all the rights and privileges of membership, but they would not be eligible to vote for Temple officers and directors, or for by-law amendments.”
The subject of membership requirements, as well as other topics, will be addressed at our upcoming congregational Town Hall meeting. I think engaging in spirited, respectful discussion is a sign of vitality in our synagogue. I hope you will come this Sunday morning and add your perspective during our communal conversation.