Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the "Frequently Asked Questions" pages of JOI's website, where we try to address some of the most common and difficult queries from intermarried family members.

If your questions are not answered here, you might try asking your peers on JOI's Bulletin Board or Chat Page. Or, feel free to Contact Us directly.

BUY THIS BOOK!!A new book from JOI Director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky may also be helpful:
Making A Successful Jewish Interfaith Marriage: The Jewish Outreach Institute Guide to Opportunities, Challenges and Resources from Jewish Lights Publishing - Click to buy!


Judaism Basics:
A starting-point for those who want to learn about their own Jewish heritage or that of their Jewish relatives.

What is Judaism?
What are the Jewish holy writings (the Torah)?
What are the different denominations (types) of Judaism?
    -- Does every Jew fit within a denomination?
Do all Jews "look the same?"
    -- Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Ethiopian Jews
    -- Legend of the Ten Lost Tribes
What is a rabbi?
What is a cantor?
What is a synagogue?
What is the Holocaust?
    -- Where can I learn more about the Holocaust?
Do Jews have their own country?
    -- A Brief History of Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora
    -- Is Zionism racism or colonialism?
    -- What is the current dispute between Israel and the Palestinians?
    -- According to Israeli law, are converts considered Jews?
    -- Where can I find more information about Israel?
Do Jews have their own language?
Where can I learn more about Judaism?

Jewish Intermarriage:
Navigating the terrain when a Jewish person marries someone from another religious tradition.

What is an interfaith marriage?
How many Jews are intermarried?
Why is interfaith marriage such a difficult issue for many Jews?
What does the Torah say about intermarriage?
What do rabbis think about intermarriage?
    -- Can a rabbi officiate at an intermarriage?
    -- Can a cantor officiate at an intermarriage?
    -- Where can I find a rabbi to officiate at my intermarriage?
How can tensions be eased within an interfaith relationship?
How can identity be maintained within an interfaith relationship?
What can be done to help raise children in an interfaith home?
    -- How can non-Jewish parents imbue their children with Jewish identities without losing their own?
Is conversion necessary for acceptance within the Jewish community?
What is required to convert to Judaism?
    -- What is a Beit Din?
What is the Jewish Outreach Institute's interest in helping intermarried families?
Where can I find Jewish institutions and programs that will welcome my interfaith family?
What other resources are available to the intermarried?

Jewish Holidays and Lifecycle Events:
"How-to" and background information on Jewish ceremonies to help ease awkwardness during family celebrations.

How does a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony work?
    -- How can I incorporate my non-Jewish relatives in my Jewish wedding?
What is a bris (ritual circumcision)?
    -- Is there a ceremony for baby girls as well?
What is a bar/bat mitzvah?
What are the Jewish funeral and mourning practices?
    -- Can my non-Jewish spouse be buried in the same cemetery as me?
How does the Jewish calendar differ from the secular calendar?
What is Shabbat (the Sabbath) and how is it celebrated?
What is the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and how is it celebrated?
What is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and how is it celebrated?
What is Hanukkah and how is it celebrated?
What is Passover (Pesach) and how is it celebrated?
What are the other Jewish holidays and how are they celebrated?
What are the days on which Jews fast, and why?

Rituals, Traditions, Teachings:
Some of the things that make Judaism so unique.

What are the dietary restrictions that some Jews follow to "keep kosher" (the laws of kashrut)?
Why do Jews tend to be charitable ("give tzedakah")?
Why do Jews hang boxes containing prayers on their doorposts (mezzuzahs)?
Why do Jewish men wear yarmulkes (beanies) to cover their heads?
    -- And when do they have to wear them?