Conservative synagogues pass proposal allowing non-Jews as members

Marcy Oster

(JTA)  — The umbrella body for Conservative synagogues approved a resolution to allow individual congregations to decide whether to grant membership to non-Jews.

The resolution was passed on March 1 during a Special Meeting of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism General Assembly held over the internet with electronic voting. The measure passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 94 to 8 with one abstention; 15 members did not vote, according to a statement from the USCJ.

“USCJ supports every affiliated kehillah in developing its own criteria for membership,” the resolution reads, using a Hebrew word for “congregation.”

“USCJ, as a valued and trusted partner, is committed to assisting welcoming, vibrant, and caring Jewish communities to fully engage the spiritual gifts of all community members. We celebrate the diversity among and within our kehillot and encourage the engagement of all those who seek a spiritual and communal home in an authentic and dynamic Jewish setting. We call on all of our kehillot to open their doors wide to all who want to enter. Let us strive to make the words of Isaiah a reality in our time: “My House will be called a house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:7),” reads the commentary to the new standard.

The proposed resolution grew out of a commission set up last March to explore ways to engage intermarried couples.

The Conservative movement prohibits its rabbis from marrying or attending the wedding ceremonies of interfaith couples, though some of its synagogues celebrate intermarriages before they occur and welcome the couples afterward. In recent years, several Conservative rabbis have protested the intermarriage prohibition.

The change was endorsed by the major Conservative institutions in the United States, including the Rabbinical Assembly, the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.