Beth Hillel Temple welcomes the participation of non-Jewish members of the congregation in our worship and ritual ceremonies. We recognize and respect the fact that some non-Jewish members of the congregation may choose not to participate in any of our rituals or worship services. However, we also recognize that there are many who would like to participate in the spiritual life of the congregation. While we welcome those who may be considering conversion to Judaism to explore that option fully, we welcome also the presence of those who are unable, for whatever reason, to make that commitment and still choose to worship among us. Therefore, we wish to delineate clearly the avenues through which non-Jews may participate in our rituals and services.
Worship Services and community rituals
A. Non-Jewish members are welcome to attend any and all Shabbat, weekday or holiday worship services offered at the temple.
B. Non-Jews are invited and encouraged to read/sing the prayers in Hebrew or English in all places where the congregation participates and to sit, stand or bow where appropriate.
C. Non-Jewish members may participate on the bima during Shabbat, weekday, and holiday services, if they are so inclined, by reading a passage from the prayer book. The honor of leading a reading or prayer at worship services from the bima will be assigned in advance for members who indicate an interest in this type of participation. Appropriate passages from the prayer book will be selected in consultation with the rabbi.
Ritual practices reserved for Jewish participants are as follows:
1. Acting as Shaliach Tzibbur, “emissary of the congregation” who represents/prays on behalf of those under the obligation (chiyuv) of public prayer. That is, leading an entire worship service, or any part of the service, that contains highly significant symbolic/theological statements, e.g.
Avinu Malkeynu on High Holy Days
Any prayer which identifies the reader as a Jew.
2. Reciting publicly from the bima any blessing/prayer which links the reader with the Jewish convenant concept or implies that the reader has formally taken on the commandments of Judaism as part of his/her life. These would include the phrases:
a. Asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu …”who has sanctified us by commandments and commanded us to…”
b. Asher bachar banu…” who has chosen us…” (includes Torah blessings and Kiddush)
3. Publicly holding, carrying, lifting, rolling or dressing the Torah, which is for Jews a powerful symbol of the chain of tradition and the covenant between God and the Jewish people.
D. When the community joins together for ritual ceremonies such as Shabbat dinners, building and decorating the Sukkah, Chanukah candle lighting, Seders and the like, we encourage non-Jews to participate, read or sing with the congregation, and to read passages aloud when turns are being taken around the table. Again, we respect any individual’s decision to be present, but not participate verbally.
Life Cycle Rituals
A. Every effort will be made to include non-Jewish family members, who are so inclined (e.g., parents, grandparents, step-parents, step-children, aunts, uncles, etc.) in the significant life cycle events of their family members. This effort at inclusion is applied to all life cycle ceremonies, including Brit Milah, Covenant ceremonies for baby girls, Consecration, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, marriages and funerals.
B. Opportunities for participation include:
Standing with the Jewish members of the family as blessings are said over candles, wine, Torah, etc.
Reading an appropriate prayer/reading at the above mentioned or other significant moments of the service. Prayers/readings will be selected in consultation with the Rabbi.
Speaking publicly about the occasion or the celebrant during the ceremony.
The rabbi publicly acknowledging the involvement of a non-Jewish parent in the up-bringing of a child, where appropriate.