Jews-by-choice watch ceremony, ponder meaning


The ordination of the two female priests at Central Reform Congregation (CRC) created a profound impact upon some CRC members who had converted from Christianity to Judaism. From their unique outlook as former Christians, they shared their thoughts as they watched a Christian ceremony take place in their synagogue.

“This ordination reaffirms the idea that women are just as holy as men,” Michael Davenport, a former Methodist, said. “And I see that in my rabbi [Susan Talve] everyday. Today’s event shows how things should be … interwoven. I know we have separate beliefs, but this sukkat shalom is open to people who have no other place to go.”

Ed Reggi, a board member of CRC who converted to Judaism from a Jewish/Catholic family around four years ago, said a lot of discussion and thought went into the decision to host the women priests’ ordination. “This was not a quick decision,” Reggi said. “We asked ‘What will it mean? Who are these women?’ They provided us with a lot of information and some of us did our own research.” Reggi said he is sure a lot of people in the Jewish community think that CRC does a lot of things not in step with the more conservative wing of Judaism. “Maybe this is another thing we stand with that’s not mainstream, like supporting stem cell research and gays and lesbians.”

Reggi referred to the remarks Talve made before the ordination ceremony began when she described how Abraham and Sarah opened their tent. “CRC has opened the tent to everyone; not just by talking about it but by doing it. I was pretty moved that we would do this.”

As for the impact on interfaith relationships, Reggi believes that it won’t affect them adversely. “It’s always a struggle to have different faiths at the table. But it’s more important that interfaith groups deal with oppression and that’s what this is all about. The beautiful thing about Judaism is because there’s no dogma, we can all disagree and there’s still a dialogue.”

Maggie Duwe, CRC’s interfaith outreach coordinator and adult educator, said the event was a stunning afternoon. “This was distinctly holy and took nothing away from my being a Jew or from this being a synagogue. I’ve never been prouder to be a member of CRC.” Duwe runs the interfaith programs at CRC and wished all of her interfaith couples could have experienced the events. “It was truly an interfaith partnership at its best.”

Krista Hyde, a former member of a Christian fundamentalist family and who converted to Judaism this past summer, thought the ordination ceremony at her synagogue was good for all faiths. “When I first saw the crucifix it shocked me but then I thought it was a sign that our future will be better. If they can wear their crosses here, then I can wear my Magen David there.” Hyde was moved at seeing the variety of Christian faiths at CRC. “Seeing all the holy people, who have chosen different spiritual paths, in our sukkat shalom was beautiful. I can’t see why this can’t be their sukkat shalom too.”

Michele Long converted from Catholicism five years ago and comes from a family that has priests and nuns. She said being inclusive doesn’t mean “except for when” which excludes people who differ from the organization’s rules. “You want to respect other people. You may not go along with them, but that’s what a sukkat shalom is. And that’s what I meant by ‘except for when.'” Long wasn’t concerned that the women priests’ ordination was held in a synagogue. “It was done with holy intent. We are supposed to open our tent, like Abraham and Sarah did.” She also added, “It would be good for our spiritual leaders to understand that our community could be better served if it didn’t allow itself to revolve around any one man but around God and those who live with holy intent.”

Michael DiPlacido, who converted to Judaism from Catholicism in July, felt comfortable both as a Jew and a human being with the ordination. “I don’t believe this will hurt interfaith relationships because what happened here and what’s happening with this movement [Women’s Ordination Conference] is much bigger than this event. It’s the justice of inclusiveness.”