Your website is the welcome mat for your community. It is often the first glimpse of your organization that someone searching for Jewish connection will get, so first impressions are important! With many Jewish organizations hoping to engage interfaith families, one of the most common questions I am asked at 18Doors is, “How can I make sure that my website is truly interfaith family-friendly?”
My answer: In short, in order for your website to be truly interfaith family-friendly, you must ensure that interfaith families will not just find the information they are looking for (which is sometimes harder than you might imagine!), but also see themselves represented and embraced in a way that tells them, “We’ll be comfortable here.”
This resource provides some helpful steps to do just that.
At a glance, interfaith families and everyone else visiting your website want to know more about your organization. What do you do? How can they participate? Who do they contact for more information?
Make sure your website:
Anticipate what a first-time visitor might want to know. Perhaps you want to have a quick guide for newcomers on your home page. Or maybe you want to highlight a particular “happening” in your community that would serve as a great introduction. Whatever it might be that someone new to your organization would want to know quickly, be sure to feature it clearly where it can be spotted quickly.
People visiting your website want to know immediately what you are all about. Focusing on what makes your community unique is an excellent way to grab visitors’ attention and tell them a bit more about what to expect.
This article on eJewishPhilanthropy about what the best Church websites can teach synagogues has some great examples.
Imagine a first-time visitor to your website. What would you say to them if they stepped into your physical space or called your organization for the first time? How can you create that sense of connection and welcome on your website?
Take a look at our homepage. Do you see how we speak directly to visitors? Using “you” language creates a sense of connectedness.
When people have felt marginalized or excluded, like many interfaith families have, they often do not feel they are part of “everyone.” An inclusive organization should explicitly and unambiguously commit to including these groups. For interfaith families, that means stating clearly that “interfaith families,” or “mixed-faith couples,” or “both partners in an interfaith marriage” are welcome and embraced by your community.
We also recommend you avoid terms like “non-Jewish spouses and partners” and instead say “spouses and partners of different faith backgrounds.” This centers them and defines them by who they are, rather than who they are not.
This inclusion statement should appear where it can immediately be seen when someone arrives on your website.
I love this description on the homepage of our Rukin Rabbinic Fellow Rabbi Boris Dolin’s congregation, Dorshei Emet:
“Home to cultural Jews and spiritual seekers, Dorshei Emet is an egalitarian, progressive community where Jewish traditions are celebrated and innovation is welcomed. An open community where everyone is welcomed regardless of religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socio-economic status. We welcome interfaith couples, and celebrate the individual stories of our members. We promote Jewish life through creative approaches to spirituality, ethics and culture.”
You can find more examples of inclusion statements from all types of Jewish organizations in our free eLearning course, The Language and Optics of Interfaith Engagement.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to your website, a picture or a video conveys a lot about who your organization is in a single glance. For visitors to your site, it is important to show them at first glance, they will feel comfortable in your community—and that there are others like them there.
We recommend you try to feature diverse families, couples and individuals—people who are racially and ethnically diverse, LGBTQ+ families, single-parent families, people with disabilities and people of all ages—in your website images.
Past 18Doors Interfaith Inclusion Leadership Initiative organization, Camp Havaya, does a great job featuring photos and videos that represent the diversity of its camp community.
For people looking to connect with community, there can be barriers—real and perceived. Imagine yourself in their shoes. What would you want to learn at a glance? What would you want to discuss with a person in order to gain a deeper understanding? Depending on your organization, some things may be better left off of your website. For example, synagogue membership fees are often best discussed in a conversation with a membership or engagement professional, rather than spelled out on a “join” page on your website.
My own synagogue, Holy Blossom Temple—where I was previously the Director of Community Engagement—explains membership and indicates that finances are never to be a barrier to participation, but leaves the details of membership costs to a personal conversation with the Director of Membership and Community Engagement.
Welcoming interfaith families and other newcomers to your organization through your website is an effective first step to creating an inclusive community, but don’t stop there! To be truly inclusive, you must go beyond simply welcoming and including to embracing and belonging. Aim to be a place where every individual and family is part of the fabric that makes you who you are.
We welcome someone to our space. Someone belongs to theirs.
While your website is the welcome mat to your community, it can also begin to show that people feel a sense of belonging. Consider featuring stories of diverse members of your organization that highlight how they participate and the experiences they have with your organization. This way, people from similar backgrounds and lived realities might be able to imagine themselves and the experiences they might have if they decide to take the next step and check you out in real life.
While your website is the welcome mat for your community, it is equally important to focus on the experience of people once they make the decision to take the next step and pick up the phone or come visit you in real life.
Stay tuned for more resources and learning opportunities from 18Doors so that you can continue to build the welcoming, inclusive and embracing Jewish organization you wish to have.
Dive Deeper: Learn more about the Language and Optics of Interfaith Inclusion in our free eLearning course. Take a closer look at inclusive images and practice writing an inclusion statement for your organization.
Looking for Feedback? 18Doors is pleased to provide consultations and coaching to Jewish organizations looking to ensure they are inclusive of interfaith families. Contact us at email@example.com to schedule a quick conversation so that we can assess your needs and see how we might work together.