Frequently Asked Questions
What if I'm not Jewish? (or: what if my girlfriend/boyfriend/ partner/wife/husband/child isn't Jewish?)

All are welcome at CBI, period. There are a few rare instances in which we pay attention to whether or not someone is Jewish, having to do with certain formal roles in the Torah service and with who's empowered to vote on matters of congregational religious practice. Otherwise, though, we don't fret about who's Jewish and who isn't. What really matters is whether you want to <em>do Jewish</em>. You could be a direct descendent of Moses, but if you aren't interested in trying anything Jewish, the ride is pretty much over. By the same token, you could be Santa Claus himself, and if you want to jump on the Jewish train and see where it takes you, then this is for you.

What if I don't believe in God?

A-OK with us. If you want talk about what you mean by "believe" and "God," that’s cool, and if you don't, that's cool too. Belief in anything in particular is not a prerequisite for being part of the CBI community.

What if I want to raise my kids Jewish but am not sure how?

There's some good news, and some bad news. The bad news is that you can't lead someone to a place where you haven't been yourself. You can't raise your kids Jewish if you don't raise yourself Jewish. The good news is that you can do both at the same time, and we're here to help.

What if I want to send my kids to learn at CBI, but am not sure I want to join (yet)?

No problem. Our educational programs are open to members and non-members alike. At this time, we ask that families join by the time their children reach Ne'arim ("Youths" -- the 5th through 7th grade b'nei mitzvah prep program, taught by Reb Rachel), but if that raises concerns for you, talk with Reb Rachel and we'll work it out. Also, by the by, we hope you'll come and learn with us, not just drop off your kids for their own enrichment. Our Hand in Hand program, for children in kindergarten and younger, is designed for children and parents/caregivers to participate and learn together.

What if I don’t know the prayers? What if I don’t know Hebrew?

The prayers you need are written in your heart. The words in the prayer book are amazing resources to help you access what is locked on the inside. If you want to use traditional prayers, that's great -- give it some time and keep an eye out for an intro to the siddur (prayerbook) course, or make the time to do some learning with Reb Rachel, and you can pick up some skills there. But at CBI you can pray in any language you want -- and, beyond that, any mode you want: words, silence, chanting, yoga. All of these can be ways of connecting with something beyond yourself.

What if I don't keep kosher?

We don't police anyone's dietary habits. We do ask that you not bring treif (pork or shellfish) to CBI potlucks. Most of our events are vegetarian/dairy, and we'll specify if an event is a meat event rather than a dairy one (our Passover seder, for instance, is usually a meat event because people want chicken soup with their matzah balls.)

What if I’m interested in something Jewish but CBI isn’t doing it?

Tell us what you want, and if we can make it happen, we will. Also, if you have the energy to make something happen, let us know - we are eager to get new and creative programs up and running.

What if I want to check out CBI to see if it's right for me, but I'm not ready to commit to anything?

You're welcome anytime. Check out the calendar, see what's going on, and come on by! Come to a holiday party, a Saturday morning Shabbat service, a first Friday potluck, or a Friday morning meditation minyan. (Or to a meeting of our Jewish book discussion group, or a Sunday when the Take and Eat volunteers are cooking food for homebound seniors in our community.) While we depend on CBI members to keep our doors open as an institution, our events are open to all.

What type of synagogue is CBI? Does it belong to a denomination?

CBI was founded in 1893 as an Orthodox synagogue. Today we're affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, and our rabbi, Reb Rachel, was ordained through the transdenominational Jewish Renewal movement.

Who leads services at CBI?

Our rabbi and spiritual leader Reb Rachel (also known as Rabbi Barenblat) leads davenen (prayer) two Shabbats each month. On the other Shabbatot, our services are usually led by Rabbi Howard Cohen or Rabbi Pam Wax. Sometimes we have guest <em>shlichei tzibbur</em> (prayer leaders) instead of, or in addition to, our usual leaders of prayer. Our google calendar usually indicates who's leading services when.

What are CBI's services like?

We use Mishkan T'filah, the Reform movement's siddur (prayerbook). Our Shabbat morning services last for 90 minutes, with Torah study and kiddush following. Usually our services feature a mix of English and Hebrew, spoken-word and song, prose and poetry. "Special" services -- contemplative services, chant-based services, poetry-themed services, and/or Rumi services -- take place a few times a year and are noted on our calendar. We think our services are warm, friendly, musical, and rejuvenating; join us sometime and give them a try!

What if I have a different question?

Email or call; we can't wait to hear from you.

Many thanks to Rabbi Brant Chaim Spodek at Beacon Hebrew Alliance from whom we borrowed not only the idea for this page, but much of its language.