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  • How Does Your Synagogue Handle Candle Lighting with Interfaith Families?


    This article has been reprinted with permission from InterfaithFamily 

    InterfaithFamily/Your Community worked together on this project to gather information about the ritual policies of synagogues in the IFF/Your Community regions of Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco Bay Area. All rabbis were asked the same question, below, and their responses follow. The opinions expressed do not reflect a policy of InterfaithFamily, but are meant to be an educational resource to be shared and discussed with the greater Jewish community.

    In many synagogues, the parent of a child whose Bar/Bat Mitzvah service the following Shabbat morning is invited to recite the blessing for lighting the candles at the Friday evening service. Since lighting the candles is a brachah shel mitzvah, referring to Jews being commanded to perform the act, this can be a complicated issue when one of the parents of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not Jewish.

    What is your synagogue’s policy on candle lighting? Who can say the blessing over the Shabbat candles at Erev Shabbat services? Specifically, can a mother or father who is not Jewish recite the blessing the Friday evening of the child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah? If not, is there an alternate role they can play?

    A Team Effort

    Congregation Sherith Israel of San Francisco, CA (Reform)

    For Shabbat evening blessings (candles, wine, challah) I/we call up to assist the family (usually parents, grandparents, other relatives) and then ask the Jewish parent to actually light the candles (or a grandmother or another Jewish member), the child to hold and lead the kiddush and the parents together to hold onto the challah with me as we all join in the brachah (blessing over the challah).

    -Rabbi Larry Raphael

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