Survey on Reform Synagogue Interfaith Inclusion Policies and Practices

The Center conducted a survey of Reform Synagogue Interfaith Inclusion Policies and Practices in October and November 2019. Responses to the survey were received from 418 congregations, representing just under 50% of the 843 member congregations of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ).

To access the survey report, which includes a list of the participating congregations, click here.

Key findings include:

Leadership Roles

  • Congregational by-laws permit partners from different faith traditions to chair some committees in 55% of congregations, serve as members of the board in 43%, and serve as officers (not necessarily including president) in 21%. Currently, 41% of congregations have such partners serving as chairs of committees, 24% as members of the board, and 13% as officers.

Ritual Participation

  • In 32% of congregations, members of a different faith are not permitted to lead the lighting of Shabbat and holiday candles during services; 68% of congregations report they are allowed to do so (but not necessarily on their own).
  • In 77% of congregations, a b’nai mitzvah child’s parent of a different faith is allowed to say a prayer from the bimah at the b’nai mitzvah; in 70%, to have or join in an Aliyah (not necessarily alone, or to say the words of the Torah blessing).
  • In 88% of congregations, a Torah is passed to a b’nai mitzvah child; in 78% of those, the Torah is passed including by relatives from different faiths, in 22% only by Jewish relatives.

Dual Education

  • In the religious school of 20% of congregations, some children are receiving formal religious education in another religion; in 80%, they are not (as far as a number of survey respondents said they knew).

Lifecycle Officiation

  • In 10% of congregations, the clergy neither officiate or co-officiate at weddings of interfaith couples; in 22% some or all of the clergy co-officiate, and in 88% some or all officiate. Responses to open-ended questions reveal a range of conditions on officiation and definitional issues on co-officiation, discussed in the report.

Messaging, Programming and Training

  • On their congregation’s website, 25% have links that provide Jewish resources specifically for interfaith families, and 18% publish their policies and practices with regard to interfaith families in terms of leadership and ritual participation.
  • In 40% of congregations, programs are offered that address issues that relate particularly to interfaith families; 12% have an affinity group for interfaith families and 14% have a committee that addresses engaging interfaith families.
  • Only 13% of congregations provide training for professional staff, and 10% for lay leaders, on how to serve the specific needs of interfaith families; in 83%, such training is not provided.
  • Responses to open-ended questions indicate that many congregations felt that programming and training that had been needed in the past was not any longer, while others said they were “working on” or “could do better” with interfaith inclusion.

A list of the congregations that participated in the survey is included as Appendix 1 to the report.

Again, to access the survey report, click here. To read the questions included in the survey, click here. If you are interested in access to the underlying data, send an email to requesting access.