Non-Jewish Members at Dorshei Tzedek: A Guide

Dorshei Tzedek is a Reconstructionist congregation dedicated to creating a caring and inclusive community, and to enhancing Jewish practice in the lives of our members. Consistent with Reconstructionist philosophy, we are committed to seriously engaging with Jewish tradition, challenging that tradition where need be, and building on the tradition in creative ways. We view education for ourselves and our children as fundamental to Jewish life. We are a participatory congregation, encouraging all of our members to take an active role in some aspect of our congregational life. We value diversity in our congregation, and welcome all those who share our commitments.

These excerpts from the Dorshei Tzedek Mission Statement touch on some of the values that inform our approach to welcoming our non-Jewish members: inclusivity, diversity, commitment both to shared values and to Jewish tradition. While there are non-Jewish partners of our Jewish members who choose not to become involved in the congregation, there are also many non-Jewish members who participate actively and meaningfully in the life of the community. The purpose of this Guide is to help clarify what it means to be a non-Jewish member of a caring and inclusive congregation that is dedicated to Jewish practice and learning.

Who can be a member of Dorshei Tzedek?

Our bylaws state: “Any person age 18 or older, born of or raised by a Jewish parent, or who has converted or is in the process of converting to Judaism, and/or is the partner of a Jew or the parent of a Jew is eligible to become a full member of the Congregation.” Membership here refers to having a full vote at our membership meetings as well as other benefits (e.g. High Holydays tickets, participation in member-only events, etc.), as well as relevant obligations (e.g. paying dues and fees, Kiddush assignments, etc.).

How do non-Jewish members participate in the community?

Non-Jewish members of Dorshei Tzedek have been involved in, and taken leadership in, many aspects of our communal life, including welcoming new members, editing the newsletter, taking part in adult education classes, coordinating child care during Shabbat and High Holydays services, serving as class parents in the religious school and as members of the Education Committee, participating in Shabbat morning services and other celebrations, taking action through our Tikkun Olam committee, and more. Non-Jewish parents are often deeply involved in their children’s Jewish education, supporting their children’s Jewish journeys in many ways, from driving a Hebrew School carpool to learning Hebrew to participating in family education programs.

In the realm of chesed, the acts of lovingkindness that bind us together as a community, there is no distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish members of Dorshei Tzedek. Everyone is asked to participate as a giver - by making a meal for someone in need, or visiting someone who is ill, or attending a shivah minyan (a gathering to support a mourner so they can say Mourner’s Kaddish) or a welcoming ceremony for a child. And anyone can ask for help at a time of illness, death, or other crisis. Both the rabbi and the larger community are here to help all of our members in need. When a non-Jewish member suffers the loss of a parent or other close relative, s/he should be in touch with the Rabbi to discuss options for mourning practices.