Biff and Buffy do b’nai mitzvah
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Biff and Buffy do b’nai mitzvah

Synagogue can be a scary place, and not just because you might get hit up for dues.

What if you’re not Jewish and it’s your first time there?

With intermarriage constantly on the rise, more and more of the folks in the pews for life cycle events are not Jewish.

What happens? They get handed a book with funny letters that reads backwards, everybody’s standing and sitting all the time, and are they really supposed to kiss that Torah moving through the room? 

Levi Fishman of the Jewish Outreach Institute took pity, and came up with some helpful tips for intermarried families to help their non-Jewish guests and family members navigate the service. He’s talking about bar and bat mitzvahs, but the tips apply to anything:

People will feel more comfortable if they know what to expect during the ceremony. Families can either send a small guide with the invitations or provide them at the event itself. By taking the time and care to introduce non-Jewish relatives to the rituals of the ceremony, you are displaying the warmth inherent to the Jewish community.

Non-Jewish relatives may not be permitted to take part in the actual ceremony,  depending on the synagogue. But the event itself can be an opportunity for outreach, Fishman writes, if it’s approached in the right spirit.

See the rest of his article at