Interfaith Marriages

  • Mira Sucharov’s column in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin on interfaith marriage. Read more.
  • Temple Israel first Ottawa synagogue to perform interfaith marriages.
  • Listen to Rabbi Garten’s interview on CBC Ottawa Morning, Monday July 8, 2013 on why he’s started officiating mixed marriages. Interview

Exploration of Interfaith Marriages

In his 2010 Rosh Hashanah sermon, Rabbi Garten invited the congregation to begin an exploration about the performing of interfaith marriage. The Rabbi and Board asked if I would help develop a process to facilitate this conversation and I was pleased to agree to help. It is as part of this process that Rabbi Olitzky of the Outreach Institute came to speak to us on Monday evening February 7, 2011.

The Temple has many precedents in conducting respectful conversations about interfaith issues, the most recent of these was the discussion and subsequent approach to burial of interfaith couples.

We appreciate the many individuals who have taken the time to speak with us and to members of the Board and the Rabbi.   We hope to continue these discussions as we learn together, share information and generally learn more about the variety of information and approaches available to us as we continue our exploration.

Background on the Interfaith Marriage Process
To facilitate the exploration of performing interfaith marriage, the Board of Directors of Temple Israel has proposed to establish an Interfaith Marriage Task Force with the following mandate: to guide the congregation in responding to the changing social context and emerging questions related to interfaith marriage.
Temple Israel has evolved significantly over the past decade with changing demographics, shifts in affiliation patterns, more children being raised in interfaith families, and growing concerns about Jewish continuity. According to research done by both Hebrew University and in the Ottawa community, there has been a significant rise in intermarriage within the community. Between 1995 and 2005, the rate of intermarriage rose from 28% of married Jewish households to 45%. Ottawa has one of the largest number of intermarried couples in North America and many are not affiliating with any congregation.

The Union of Reform Judaism and the Canadian Council of Reform Judaism have been directing considerable resources to try to understand how these influences are shaping our movement and how we can respond to the new outreach and integration roles we are being called upon to play in our communities. Eight years ago the Role of the Non-Jew Task Force explored a many issues and recommended a number of policy and practice changes to better welcome and integrate non-Jewish family members. (The task force report is available upon request). This past year, we challenged ourselves to further explore and identify barriers to our being an inclusive congregation. Within this context, the issue of performing interfaith marriages (by our congregational rabbi within or outside Temple Israel or by another officiate inside the Temple building) has resurfaced as a question to be explored.

Some excellent resources can be found at the following web addresses:
The Jewish Outreach Institute
Interfaith Families