Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha Interfaith Initiative

 “ I am worried that our present policy is internally conflicted and thus strategically self defeating. The idea of refusing to be present for the wedding and then expecting the couple to feel warmly embraced by the Jewish people strikes me as a policy constructed by someone who doesn’t know the mind of a young couple…..I am not exactly clear on the message the Conservative movement is sending out into the world, and I am not sure if it is a viable policy in the long term.
– Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove Rabbi,Park Synagogue. NYC

Tree of Life *Or L’Simcha is proud of its progressive and innovative approach to Conservative Judaism. The Rabbinical Assembly currently forbids its members to participate in interfaith weddings. Many member rabbis feel constrained by this rule while others welcome it as a protection from having to deal with the pressures of participation. Rabbi Chuck is not a member of the Rabbinical Assembly and as a result is unencumbered by their rules. This puts him and our synagogue in a unique position to approach interfaith weddings with an eye towards participation.

As congregation and rabbi walk down this path together we realize that our principles that will guide us may be fluid as we gain experience. An Interfaith Advisory Committee has been informed under the leadership of former presidents Lynette Lederman and Howard Elson. This committee will work with the rabbi on an ongoing basis to evaluate what we have done and to advise on where we should be going. The final decision as to participation will be the rabbis based on our criteria that we have established.

“It is not important that your grandparents are Jewish, but more important that your grandchildren are Jewish.”
–Shimon Peres President, State of Israel

This policy is geared towards members of our congregation or children of members.

  1. Step #1 Meeting of couple w/Rabbi At this meeting the Rabbi will inquire as to the possibility of conversion for the non Jewish partner. This is done in a thoughtful and understanding way. It is important that the non Jewish partner not feel pressured in any way to convert. The next question to be asked is would the couple commit to raising a Jewish family* in a Jewish home? The answer to this question has to be a yes. Our goal inspired by Shimon Peres is to insure the Jewishness of our next generation.
  2. Step #2 Study with the Rabbi Study with the Rabbi allows the couple and the rabbi to get to know each other and form a strong bond with each other (if one does not already exist). It also allows the couple to learn what it means to raise a Jewish family in a Jewish home. It will also allow the couple to learn about a Jewish wedding and what elements will be available.
  3. Step #3 Planning of the wedding ceremony with the Rabbi The couple will be afforded the opportunity to plan the wedding ceremony with the rabbi.

Rituals that may be included:

  • Chuppah – as a symbol of their future Jewish home together.
  • Hakafot – some form of bride and groom walking around each other.
  • Wine – as a symbol of joy.
  • Rings – but with different accompanying verses.
  • Ketubah substitute – a document that could be signed before ceremony.
  • Seven blessings that would be created by rabbi and couple.
  • Stepping on the glass.


Other points to consider:

  • Ceremonies may be held at the synagogue with the rabbis participation.
  • The rabbi will NOT officiate with non Jewish clergy.
  • Ceremony is technically a civil ceremony with a Jewish flavor.
  • The rabbi will consider referrals from other Conservative Rabbis in town.
  • Conservative Judaism follows matrilineal descent so that if non Jewish partner is the woman then couple must agree to conversion for children involving Brit and /or Mikveh. These issues will be discussed and explained by rabbi in his study sessions with the couple.

“Imagine if, when an interfaith couple approached a Conservative rabbi to officiate their wedding, the response wasn’t “I can’t officiate, but consider conversion!” or “I can’t officiate, but you’re still welcome to come to synagogue!” but instead was “Welcome! Let’s bring you into our community, celebrate your wedding, and then, as you and your partner establish this next phase of your lives together, let’s make sure Jewish learning is included!”
–Benjamin Maron A New Conservative Approach to Conversion and Intermarriage – IFF Network Blog

Click here to download a printable copy of these guidelines