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Benefitting the whole community

11/27/2019 08:39:15 AM

Nov27

Fred Cohen

This week’s parashat, Toldot 26:34, states that when Esau was 40, he married two Hittite women and that the marriages were “a source of bitterness to Isaac and Rebekah.” That attitude continued until recently, much like the story of a son who told his mother that he was marrying a Native American and taking the name “Standing Bear,” and she replied that she too will be taking a new name, “Sitting Shiva.”
A generation ago in 1978, UAHC President Rabbi Alexander Schindler proposed that our movement, instead, welcome the non-Jewish partner. He said that many families are lost to Judaism because of that outdated view. That change has benefited our community, and many mixed marriages are now doing what was unheard of in the past, raising their children Jewish.
Many non-Jewish spouses have greatly enriched our community, and some have also chosen to become “Jews by choice.”
In truth, those of us who attend weekly services or who are otherwise active in our Temple are also “active Jews by choice.” Some come to pray and others come, similar to the story of Levy and Goldberg, who were regular attendees at all weekly services. When Levy was asked why they came, he said “Goldberg comes to talk to God; I come to talk to Levy.”
Our community is a second family to many and is especially important during times of joy and times of sorrow or loss. Our joy in being part of the Temple Shalom family is why I invited the whole Temple to my second Bar Mitzvah this Saturday.  Some who are coming also had an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah as proof of the outreach vision of Rabbi Schindler (1925-2000) that welcoming them would benefit the whole community.

Fred Cohen is a member of Temple Shalom.

Sun, December 15 2019 17 Kislev 5780