Serving throughout the Western hemisphere - from Canada to the Caribbean and New York to California. Rabbi/Cantor Allen has also been called upon to travel to Europe to conduct weddings in French, Italian, Spanish and German.
In his more than four decades of professional service (thirty-eight years in the Synagogue), Rabbi/Cantor Allen has officiated alone or co-officiated at more than one thousand Jewish and Interfaith weddings. He writes a personalized wedding service for all couples unique to each couple. It has been my experience that a great many Interfaith couples say that they would like a "Jewish Ceremony." What they mean by this is the use of symbols that are considered Jewish. I cite the canopy (Chupah), which is used throughout the Middle East, the sharing of wine and the breaking of the glass. Some ask for a wedding contract (Ketubah), which today has no resemblance to the original of more than 2,500 years ago. The Ketubah of today is more like a piece of art commemorating the wedding and hung in the home. The exchange of vows and rings are always included, with a choice of writing their own vows or those suggested by Rabbi Allen. The Unity Candle is a fad, perhaps twenty-five years old, which is being requested less and less by Interfaith couples. However if they do request its use, no objection is raised.
Rabbi/Cantor Allen was named Cantor Emeritus of Reform Congregation Keneseth
Israel in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, after twenty-one years of service there,
preceded by seventeen years at Sinai Temple in Mount Vernon, New York and
Temple B'rith Kodesh in Rochester, New York. His title was Cantor - Music
Director and his duties also included presiding at all liturgical and
Life-Cycle services, including Weddings, training Bar- and Bat-Mitzvah students
in Torah-reading, Hospital visits, Funerals and Unveilings, conducting services
in the homes of the Bereaved, conducting/directing both the adult and
children's choirs, teaching music to all grades in the Sunday School, all
within the aegis of the Synagogue.
At this point, because it is informational and is also personal as well as experiential, rather than be referred to as Rabbi Allen, I would rather use the first person singular.
So many couples have thanked me after spending six to nine hours with them in Premarital Counseling. They tell me that I very often have reached the essence of their relationship and they don’t know how I am able to do it in such a short time. Thereby lies a tale. If you would take the time to bear with me, I would like to explain that.
I started my work as Cantor and "fill-in" Rabbi in 1963. I was very fortunate in being chosen by the rabbi who became my mentor. Rabbi Dr. Henry Enoch Kagan had not only a PhD in Rabbinics, he also had a PhD In Clinical Psychology. He was a leading figure in the Civil Rights movement and was a leader in the Ecumenical movement. Rabbi Kagan and I worked together for seven years. We truly had a father-son relationship. Rabbi Kagan’s outstanding work in Ecumenism brought him to the attention of Pope John XXIII, who requested Augustine Cardinal Bea, the Vatican official in charge of the Office of Ecumenical Relations, to invite Rabbi Kagan to Rome to co-write the Encyclical, “In Nostra Aetate” (In Our Time) to be presented at the Second Vatican Council. With such a great mentor, it is easy to understand why collaborating with other clergy in an Interfaith marriage is not difficult for me.
If the bride or groom chooses to have his or her minister, pastor, or priest take part in the wedding ceremony, I am quite open to co-officiating. Because of the fact that the couple has contacted me first, I usually meet with them for Premarital Counseling before the co-officiant. Should the couple decide that they would like to have me suggest other clergy, I have many friends with whom I have co-officiated among the various traditions. I have had great success in providing ceremonies that have been called, “caring, beautiful, sensitive and spiritual.” Family members and people who have known the couple have also said the same thing that was said by the couple doing premarital counseling. They have told me that I have caught the essence of this couple’s relationship.
One of the more unusual aspects of my working with the couple and the co-officiant is my writing a first draft of the ceremony and sending it to everyone concerned for their perusal and/or suggestions or changes to the ceremony. I then re-write it and send it out again. In this way, everyone is on the same page and it is a very democratic process.
Having sung opera internationally for many years, my singing of the traditional Seven Blessings have often been called the highlight of the ceremony.
How can we sensitize our families to the fact that their children are an Interfaith couple?
I have been active in synagogue life for 38 years and marrying couples for longer than that, I have come to realize that the real problem in Interfaith marriages is the lack of familiarity with either religion on the part of the couple is the main factor between Christians and Jews. Perhaps I should point out that by my calculations over the years, 95% of all the Interfaith couples I have married have been Catholic and Jewish. Neither is familiar with the other’s religion. Interfaith marriages can be difficult to manage. The question usually arises during Premarital Counseling: “How do we raise the children in two religions? As soon as the word, “religion” is brought up, I will ask what the word, “religion” means to the couple. They usually have difficulty in trying to explain it to me.
In order to relieve the tension that I know is going to be felt by both, I explain the way I see religion: Religion can be seen in two ways: “Observance” means going to church or synagogue and doing what you are supposed to do. The second way of regarding religion is by the way that you live your life. It is by following the words to be found in Chapter 19 of Leviticus (called “The Holiness Code.”) that I can make this clear. I will not enumerate, but just simplify the language of just a few. “Revere your mother and your father. Do not harvest to the edges of your fields or pick your vineyards bare; Leave them for the poor and the stranger. Do not steal, do not deal deceitfully with one another. The wages of a laborer shall not remain with you until morning. You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Chapter 19 is for me, at least, a way to live my life. What I glean from this is charity, kindness, humility, honesty, and love. These are values and I believe if two people can unite their values, religion will work and not suffer.
There is no easy answer. Some couples want to raise their children in both religions at the same time. That is the only time that will tell them immediately that it would be a mistake and the child or children would be confused. Some couples choose to raise their children in one religion at a time. There is a sensible answer to the question. I never sit in judgment upon a couple. I am there to answer questions and make suggestions. It is certainly difficult enough to make a marriage work when there are two religions. The parents on both sides feel hurt and helpless when their child chooses to marry someone of another religion. It is not unusual for the couple to contact me to seek my advice. What I have often found is that neither one nor the other in this couple knows a great deal about his/her own religion. That is a sad comment, but true! Unlike the great majority of rabbis, I chose to attend a Rabbinic Seminary where I had to study not only Judaism, but other religions as well in order to get a better understanding of how to deal with Interfaith couples. My knowledge and understanding of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular has helped to solve potential problems. It is my contention that there is but one God and that God is One.
Therefore, if a couple agrees with my contention, and can agree that there are many paths to God, but no single path, they have gone a long way toward merging their religious ideas. The various ways of worshiping the Lord are many and most of them stem from the same beginning with Luther and the Protestant Revolution. It is my firm belief that there is no Jewish God, nor is there a Christian God. The Muslims say, "There is no God but God. There is only God and GOD is ONE. Hopefully, that can solve the dilemma.
Sensitizing your families by kindness and love.
Interfaith marriage has become the norm rather than the exception. This is not a generalization: Most Christians have never been in a synagogue; most Jews have never been in a church. Therefore, it is a good idea when you are considering marriage and you are an Interfaith couple, think of attending each other’s houses of worship. When you are comfortable with going to services, urge your families to come with you. Since the first century of the common era, the real irritation is that Jews worship the Lord in their way and Christians worship in their way. When one considers what is said by the Church - that when Christ comes the second time, the Jews will know that they have followed the wrong path and convert - one can understand why there is anti-Semitism. That is the only great difference. We have far more in common than we have in differences.
As I was rereading what I have written above I was reminded of the words of in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” As Shylock stands before a tribunal to protest his innocence and to remind the judges that we are all essentially the same:
“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”
Throughout two millennia Jews have always been “the other.” What I mean by that is that Jews have gone to their deaths rather than converting to become Christians because their faith was that strong. The best example I can cite is the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. The strange thing is that Judaism is the mother to both Christianity and Islam. Both Abraham and Moses are important in the Islamic faith as well as Christianity. anti-Semitism is rife in Europe and is quite healthy in the United States. I have lived through it most of my life. By saying this I do not mean that the Christian half of the couple or their parents are in any way anti-Semitic. But I wish to make clear is that it is necessary to become aware not of the differences, but the similarities between their religions.
A successful marriage involves the merging of two people's lives into one as well as finding a value system to live by. When parents see their children in a loving, happy marriage, they also can accept the fact without reservation. That is the greatest reason for sensitivity and understanding.
Interfaith Weddings by Rabbi Richard Allen.
Rabbi Allen will officiate at Interfaith Marriage and Traditional Jewish Weddings, Ceremonies, Non-denominational and Civil Marriage Ceremonies.
Weddings: Interfaith Marriage - Marriage between Christian and Jew has become more and more accepted over the past twenty years. I have been called upon to conduct to be a Marriage Counselor and Advisor and to officiate at the resultant Interfaith Wedding Ceremony.
Interfaith Wedding Ceremonies which are Personalized and
Sample Wedding Ceremony
Close Attention to Your Needs is the Hallmark of my Interfaith Marriage Ceremonies.
Of the Interfaith Marriage Ceremonies where I officiate, the percentage of Catholic/Jewish Marriage Ceremonies is an astonishing 97%. To see how I interact Click Here
Interfaith Marriage Ceremonies to serve the Unaffiliated
Marriage Vows: Couples often ask me for help in writing their own.
An Interfaith Ketubah (Marriage Document) is often requested. I help Interfaith couples with choosing an Interfaith Ketubah and its wording.
Interfaith Wedding Couples always ask me to sing the traditional Seven Blessings at their Wedding Ceremonies.
While primarily serving New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, I have officiated at Interfaith Weddings throughout North America and Europe.
In the unlikely case where I have too many requests, I have colleagues all over the United States. As a founding member of the International Federation of Rabbis, I am able to call upon colleagues across the United States. When i get a request that I for one reason or another and cannot take on, I can always depend on any of my colleagues from the IFR.
For further information on the services I provide, please click my "Marriage Services FAQ's."
International Federation of Rabbis
Thank you for visiting RabbiAllen.com. After years of service, Rabbi
Allen has retired the pulpit but is still very active in his community. He also
loves to help people plan their very special weddings.
As a rabbi open to Interfaith weddings, Rabbi Allen will work with other ministers to include Catholic, Protestant and Jewish wedding traditions so that the day is special to bride, groom, families and guests. Custom weddings and alternative weddings are also growing in popularity and the rabbi will also work with couples planning a commitment ceremony.
Whether planning a Jewish wedding ceremony or needing advice from an Interfaith wedding rabbi, Rabbi Allen is here to help. You can view a sample wedding ceremony or learn more about the process by reading our articles.
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