THE FLEMINGTON Jewish Community Center (FJCC) will hold a barbecue to welcome its new religious leader, Rabbi Eric Cohen, on Sunday, Aug. 20, at 4 p.m.
The event will also give families a chance to learn more about the newly formed FJCC Interfaith Committee, whose aim is to find ways to address the concerns of multi-faith couples and families and help them feel welcome at the synagogue.
Cohen, who assumed the FJCC pulpit on Aug. 1, said he is committed to ensuring that interfaith families “find a warm and welcoming home at FJCC. Navigating the ‘ins and outs’ of Jewish ritual practices requires discussion, patience, and a willingness to learn, and I am eager to facilitate this.”
Reflecting the committee’s goals, Dr. Keren R. McGinity of Hebrew College in Massachusetts, an expert on interfaith marriages, said that Jewish institutions should “provide essential information and programs to individuals involved in interfaith relationships (or who have family members who are) that help keep Jews connected to their heritage, feel welcome in the community, and perhaps even make Judaism appealing to the non-Jewish partners.”
“The needs of the interfaith couple or family,” said committee member Dr. Bruce Moskovitz, “may depend upon the dynamics of their relationship to Judaism.” For example, the non-Jewish partner may be interested in exploring Judaism, may be strongly committed to his or her own faith traditions, or may feel neutral.
“Participation in things Jewish, if that has not been your tradition, can seem overwhelming,” said FJCC president Mindy Friedman. “People can feel worried that they will do or say the wrong thing.” A prayer service largely in Hebrew can be daunting at first. Even though the prayer books at FJCC include translations, newcomers may need help to appreciate the structure and meaning of the service.
One interfaith congregant couple — Catherine O’Shea and Art Wetstein — said issues often arise around home celebrations, especially in December. O’Shea said she hopes to find ways for multi-faith families to study the shared values that underlie their faith traditions.
Cohen said FJCC takes part in non-ritual activities on behalf of the greater Flemington community. “Supporting our community in building relationships, practicing social justice, teaching, and maintaining our physical plant requires no ritual training, only a commitment and a good intention,” he said.
For example, twice a year FJCC hosts homeless families as part of the Family Promise program; volunteers help with meals and other accommodations for these guests. FJCC also drew on the expertise of Martin McInerney, the husband of Debbie McInerney, and other non-Jewish spouses when planning the construction of the new synagogue building a decade ago.
There is no fee to attend the barbecue, but reservations are requested by going to conta.cc/2tMrNtK or by calling 908-782-6410.