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Engaging Interfaith Families for the High Holy Days: A Checklist for an Inclusive Synagogue Experience

This is the perfect inclusive synagogue checklist to read through for the High Holy Days.

The High Holy Days are quickly approaching and communities everywhere are putting the finishing touches on their plans for this year. We know that the High Holy Days are a stressful time for Jewish organizations – but also that they are a time when many people attend synagogue.

Many interfaith families celebrate the High Holy Days by attending synagogue services, and many others are curious about whether services might speak to them. Paying particular attention to the ways in which we welcome and include interfaith families in High Holy Day services will go a long way to making them feel understood and engaged.

With the pandemic impacting our ability to hold services in person, these ten steps to an inclusive synagogue experience are all adaptable to a digital experience. Read through our inclusive synagogue checklist below.

Before the High Holy Days

  • Ensure that interfaith families are actively welcomed and encouraged to attend your High Holy Day services. Include interfaith families in advertising. State clearly that interfaith families are invited to be part of your community.
  • If there is a cost for your High Holy Day services, think about language that moves away from fee-for-service into values-based language of building community and supporting everyone who wishes to come pray during the High Holy Days.
  • Consider creating a roadmap to the High Holy Day services that you can circulate in advance so people who are less familiar with the synagogue rituals know what to expect.
  • Make sure that you have transliterations and translations for the prayers that are read in Hebrew so that everyone can be an active participant in the services.

During Services

  • Give honors to interfaith families. If your congregation has boundaries that require certain rituals to only be performed by Jews, make sure you have other opportunities to have interfaith families participate. Consider giving group honors.
  • Be sure to provide guide posts during the service, for example, calling out page numbers frequently during the service or briefly describing the meaning of the each section of the service.
  • Find a moment to honor parents from other backgrounds who are raising Jewish children in your community – perhaps during a prayer or a sermon.

After Services

  • Ask interfaith families in your congregation if they would like to meet other interfaith families for discussion and community-building and facilitate the formation of a small group for them if there is interest.
  • Remind interfaith families that they are valued members of your congregation who contribute to its strength, and continue to learn from them to best meet their needs during the High Holy Days and beyond.

Tema Smith

During her time at 18Doors, Tema worked in partnership with Jewish professionals, educators, clergy and lay leaders to help them develop the skills and tools they need to fully embrace interfaith couples and families. She currently works as the Director of Jewish Outreach and Partnerships at the ADL.


Author: Tema Smith

Director of Professional Development