Bucks County Herald

Flemington Jewish Community Center reaches out to multi-faith families



Martin McInerney, here with wife Debbie, helped plan for the new synagogue building.

The Flemington Jewish Community Center (FJCC) has formed an Interfaith Committee in response to the growth of multi-faith families that are a growing component of America’s Jewish community.

The FJCC’s goal is to find ways to help multi-faith couples and families feel welcome at the synagogue and address some of the questions that arise when people from differing faith traditions work at building a life together.

More than half of American Jews marry a partner from a different background. One scholar who studies the phenomenon, Dr. Keren R. McGinity of Hebrew College in Massachusetts, advocates that Jewish institutions “provide essential information and programs to individuals involved in interfaith relationships.” That is the goal of the FJCC’s Interfaith Committee.

“Participation in things Jewish, if that has not been your tradition, can seem overwhelming,” said Mindy Friedman, the president of FJCC. “People can feel worried that they will do or say the wrong thing.”

Rabbi Eric Cohen, who assumes the pulpit at FJCC on Aug. 1, intends to ensure 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,” he said.

Issues may arise around home celebrations, especially in December. This has been the experience of one Christian FJCC member, Catherine O’Shea, who is married to Art Wetstein. She hopes to find ways for multi-faith families to study the shared fundamental values that underlie their faith traditions.

Cohen notes that, in pursuit of those values, the FJCC engages in various non-ritual activities supporting the greater Flemington community, thereby offering those unfamiliar with or uninterested in ritual, opportunities to stay engaged.

“Supporting our community in building relationships, practicing social justice, teaching, and maintaining our physical plant requires no ritual training,” he said, “only a commitment and a good intention.” 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 and other non-Jewish spouses when planning for the construction of the new synagogue building a decade ago.

For multi-faith families (and all-Jewish families) who want to learn more about the FJCC, an informal opportunity is the barbecue to welcome Rabbi Cohen, at 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20, on the grounds of the FJCC at 5 Sergeantsville Road. There is no fee, but reservations are requested at conta.cc/2tMrNtK or 908-782-6410.

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