Word of mouth publicity is no longer sufficient in the age of hyper connectivity to spread the message of your welcome. Your website will increasingly serve as the primary introduction of your community to potential members.
Focus groups report that people are looking for others like them and an atmosphere of warmth and acceptance. With intermarriage rates at 50% and more for young Jewish adults, two thirds of the future pool of prospective members will be interfaith families. To attract the attention of interfaith families that are searching on the Internet for a community will require you to add new elements to assure them that you really are a welcoming institution.
Recommendation 1: Say clearly and explicitly on your home page that your community includes and welcomes interfaith families and looks forward to engaging them in your activities.
It is not enough to say you are “a diverse congregation” or that “everyone is welcome.” These statements are too subtle and couples who are anxious about their reception will not read them as a sincere welcome. The best websites unambiguously refer to those who are “intermarried,” say they include “interfaith families,” “mixed-faith couples,” or “both partners of interfaith marriages.” And make this statement visible where visitors can see it on your home page without needing to scroll down or click through to another page. Try to avoid using “non-Jewish spouses and partners,” as people do not typically identify themselves as “non-Jewish ” any more than Jews identify as “non-Christian.” We recommend “spouses or partners who are not Jewish” over “non-Jewish spouses and partners.”
Here are several examples of congregational website home pages that make an explicit welcome to people in interfaith relationships:
The following two have warm and welcoming language but have yet to move from “non-Jewish spouse or partner” to the recommended “spouse or partner who is not Jewish.”
Recommendation 2: Post photographs that include people of diverse heritage on your website’s home page.
Photographs convey your welcoming message in a single glance. Studies show that visitors to your website may only spend seconds before they move on to another site. It is important to grab their attention with explicit statements and photographs which tell them that there are others like them in your community.
Too many synagogues inadvertently exclude potential members by showing only pictures of middle and upper middle class, white, Ashkenazi, heterosexual, married families with children. We recommend that you include pictures of multicultural families or groups of children, as well as of gay couples, families with adopted children and single parent families.
Here are a few examples of congregational websites that use photos that effectively demonstrate their welcome to interfaith families:
Temple Israel (Reform)
Temple Emeth (Conservative)
Chestnut Hill, MA
Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley (Reform)