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Norwalk shul gives non-Jewish members voting rights

NOWALK – Congregation Beth El-Norwalk in Norwalk will begin to allow non-Jewish persons to become recognized voting members of the synagogue, it was announced recently by synagogue President Sharon DeFala.

Previously, non-Jews could be members of the Conservative congregation if their spouses were Jewish, but they had no voting rights. The decision to afford non-Jewish members the right to vote was made during a special meeting of the congregation Thursday, March 22.

The synagogue’s By-Laws Committee worked for nearly a year on updating the synagogue’s by-laws replace by making changes such as substituting male pronouns with gender-neutral language. The new By-Laws also address LGBT marriages by changing language from “husband and wife” to “spouse.”

“As the first intermarried president of the congregation, I felt it was critically important that I recuse myself from every discussion and vote on the question of how non-Jewish spouses are recognized by our membership,” DeFala said. “I would have supported and championed either outcome. Now that the congregation has voted in favor of the proposals, I am surprised by my own sense of relief and gratitude.

“My husband and I have been committed and involved here for almost two decades. My husband earns most of the money we use to pay our dues and Hebrew school tuition. Our children embrace their Judaism, their kashrut, and their relationships with Israel. And now their dad, who has supported them in every step of their journeys, can be counted as a full voting member of our beloved congregation.”

Beth El Rabbi Ita Paskind added, “I am proud of our congregation for opening our membership to anyone who wants to be part of Congregation Beth El. We are excited to embrace Jewish families of all compositions, to celebrate life cycle events together, and to offer support in difficult times.”

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