In the spring of 2016, the Ritual Committee received a request from a recent b’nei mitzvah parent to re-visit our community’s policy on ways that a non-Jewish family member who is supportive of, and actively involved in, raising Jewish children may be honored in Beth El’s Shabbat morning services.
The following decision was reached after a period of study and a series of conversations with our Ritual Committee:
A non-Jew may be given the honor of leading the Prayer for Peace from a prayer shtender (lectern) on the bimah at Beth El, subject to approval by Rabbi Greyber. When doing so s/he must wear a kippah or appropriate head covering and should not wear a tallit because the tallit is a ritual garment related to a mitzvah that is incumbent upon Jews only.
To reach this decision, the Ritual Committee not only reviewed different t’shuvot (legal responsa) from the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), but corresponded directly with Rabbi Elliot Dorff, current chair of the CJLS who approved of the appropriateness of this step. Beth El is blessed with many families and extended families that include non-Jews who are deeply supportive of Jewish identity and who actively promote and support Jewish education of those they love. In giving a non-Jew the honor of leading us in the Prayer for Peace (text below, page 417 of Siddur Sim Shalom), we honor our community as a whole.
As the person who requested that we revisit this policy wrote, “One of the things that makes Beth El special is the participatory nature of its worship services. …[T]here is a place for everyone who wants to take such a role in our weekly services.” We hope that this decision continues Beth El’s commitment to inclusivity while continuing to preserve the integrity of traditional Jewish worship that is at the heartbeat of our community.
B’virkat Shalom (with blessings of peace),
Randi Smith & Meg Anderson
Co-Chairs, Beth El Ritual Committee
Prayer for Peace
Siddur Sim Shalom (p. 417)
May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease,
when a great peace will embrace the whole world.
Then nation will not threaten nation,
and mankind will not again know war.
For all who live on earth shall realize
we have not come into being to hate or to destroy.
We have come into being
to praise, to labor and to love.
Compassionate God, bless the leaders of all nations
with the power of compassion.
Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture:
I will bring peace to the land,
and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you.
I will rid the land of vicious beasts
and it shall not be ravaged by war.
Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream.
Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea.
And let us say: Amen.