October 4, 2022 /

Letter from Rabbi Bazeley – August 2018

Dear Anshe Emeth Family,

Over this past year, I met with many of you at Meet and Greets, so we could get to know each other better, and I could share my vision of our Temple’s future with you. While each of these meetings was different, there was one constant. In one form or another, the question of “Interfaith Marriage” was always asked, and until now I never gave a complete answer.

You may be aware that I come from a blended family. While my father chose to convert to Judaism, he did so after almost 25 years of marriage. The simple fact that I come from an interfaith family doesn’t necessarily mean that as a rabbi, I would automatically agree to officiate at interfaith weddings. My family background informs me of the challenges that a family faces when there are multiple faith traditions involved. These challenges are not insurmountable, and what my personal experience has taught me is that even though a couple may only have one Jewish partner, it does not diminish the ability for that couple to foster a strong commitment to Judaism. For twelve years of my life I had parents from multiple faith traditions, but for my entire life I have lived in a Jewish family.

After much thought, I have decided that I will officiate at weddings of interfaith couples. As a rabbi, it is my honor to welcome couples who come to me seeking a rabbinic presence and desire to create a Jewish household. I know that for any couple, having contact with a rabbi can be awkward, since many have not had a relationship with a rabbi since their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. For interfaith couples, it can be even more intimidating. My goal as a rabbi is to create a warm and welcoming presence for any couple who approaches me.

This is a new area for me as I continue to grow as a rabbi and consider how to best support and reach out to couples who are seeking a portal to Judaism. Over my rabbinate, I have learned and appreciated the need for us to do outreach and work at integrating interfaith partners in every facet of Jewish life at the Temple. By looking inward at my own family and by being involved with the lives of other interfaith families here at the Temple, I have come to know, appreciate, and love how they have contributed to the life and tapestry of our community. While getting to know these families, I have been touched and inspired by their dedication to Jewish family life, to building a Jewish home and to raising Jewish children. In short, our active interfaith families have become a source of blessing to our mission of
ensuring a meaningful Jewish future. I have come to learn that for many of them, having a rabbi officiate at their wedding was an integral step in their building of a Jewish life and a Jewish home together as a married couple. It is couples such as these whose weddings I would be honored to consecrate.

With this in mind, I will officiate at a wedding ceremony if there is an agreement on a shared basic framework of our time together. In our pre-marriage counseling sessions, we engage in meaningful conversation about what constitutes a healthy relationship, how a couple deals with conflict, finances, family of origin, and other important topics. When one party is from another faith tradition, I also want to know that we agree on these important guidelines:

  1. A commitment to establishing and maintaining a Jewish family life and home and, if blessed with children, to raising them as Jews;
  2. Engaging in pre-marital counseling with me;
  3. Being open to taking an Introduction to Judaism class or its equivalent;
  4. Agreeing to exclusively Jewish clergy officiation at the wedding;
  5. Allowing me to continue to support them in finding a synagogue community wherever they choose to settle after they are married;
  6. Committing to join a synagogue.

As a rabbi, I strive to have a pastoral relationship with anyone with whom I have had the honor of sharing in a lifecycle moment. I think such follow-up is especially important for young couples as I know they can often get lost in the early days of building a new family. It is the relationship that continues beyond the ceremony that is among the sweetest and most powerful facets of my rabbinate.

I am incredibly grateful to our temple leadership, both past and present, who are standing with me in approval of this important change. I thank you for your support and encouragement.

Please join with me and the rest of our Anshe Emeth Family for the High Holy Days where I will discuss the evolution of this practice at our Temple and how it fits into our Jewish tradition, as well as who we are as a Temple community.

I look forward to seeing you there and joining in the sweetness of this New Year together,

L’Shalom,

Philip N. Bazeley, Rabbi