“To be a Jew means first belonging to the group…” – Mordecai Kaplan
Thriving within a Jewish framework
“I like belonging to a Reconstructionist synagogue, because it means I’m a member of a warm and supportive community. I felt comfortable getting involved right from the beginning. I know that what I say and do makes a difference.”
– Member, Congregation Beth Israel, Media, Pennsylvania
“The members of our Reconstructionist synagogue work with the rabbi to create services that are meaningful for special individual occasions like baby namings and are valuable for the whole community … Of course we use some traditional prayers and melodies, but we have found that new melodies and readings written or selected by our members add vitality to our prayers.”
– Member, Congregation Darchei Noam, Toronto, Canada
“The Reconstructionist philosophy emphasizes our obligation as Jews to work for social justice and tikkun olam, ‘the repair of the world.’ Reconstructionists reject any distinction between ‘religious life’ and ‘real life,’ and our commitment to social action is broad and deep. That kind of philosophy and commitment is particularly attractive to me. I am very proud of the leadership we Reconstructionists have taken in preserving and protecting the environment.”
– Member, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston, Illinois
“Throughout my life, I had searched for a spirituality that felt right for me. I had belonged to a number of synagogues and read many books, but never found a community or a philosophy with which I could identify. But during my first Shabbat service at Kehillath Israel, I had a sense that I had finally found a ‘home.’ A class called ‘God and Spirituality – a Reconstructionist Approach’ helped me affirm intellectually all the positive feelings I experienced on my first visit to the synagogue. During the class I realized that the entire community was helping me validate my own intuitive, spiritual perceptions. I am very grateful that Kehillath Israel has turned out be a place that nurtures my spirituality through experience and education.”
– Member, Kehillat Israel, Pacific Palisades, California
Belonging to a contemporary Jewish community
Reconstructionist communities welcome members from a variety of life situations, backgrounds, political and religious perspectives. Each person brings to the community unique talents and needs. Individuals choose levels of involvement comfortable for themselves.
Members of Reconstructionist communities actively help each other in practical ways during times of personal crisis. Some communities have organized transportation networks for members who require regular hospital visits or housekeeping help for members who are bedridden. Congregations also arrange shiva minyanim, services in the home of bereaved family during the days after a funeral.
Community involvement will vary from congregation to congregation, but Reconstructionists have successfully organized everything from daycare networks to a home oil buying co-op to a hevra kadisha (burial committee) in a town where Jewish funeral services were not available.
Inclusiveness is another important aspect of a Reconstructionist community. The realities of contemporary life require new efforts to welcome Jews from a variety of lifestyles. For today a thriving Jewish community must extend beyond the reach of traditional families to include singles, single-parent families, the intermarried and those living in non-traditional families. Reconstructionist communities recognize that all Jews need the kind of extended family support which can be found in a Jewish community.
Learning and leading: Jewish life with integrity
Members of Reconstructionist congregations and havurot are not mere observers, but active participants at the very center of Jewish communal life. The essence of Reconstructionist Judaism is community building through learning, revitalization of prayer and mutual help.
Members’ resourcefulness and talents extend from teaching a song in the nursery school to leading a Shabbat Torah discussion; from designing and making torah covers to lecturing on ethical issues; from delivering a hot meal to building a sukkah; from teaching Israeli dancing to leading a poetry reading group.
Praying in a community: celebrating the sacred with a blend of the traditional and the contemporary
Communal prayer is a central activity of Reconstructionist congregations. Through prayer Reconstructionists forge a connection with the past and with other Jews. They become aware of the spiritual dimension in their lives, and discover that the perspectives of our ancestors can enhance the quality of contemporary life. Our liturgies draw deeply from tradition, enriching it with contemporary poetry, music, art and personally written prayers.
In some Reconstructionist communities, members are encouraged to write and deliver their own commentaries on the Torah, or lead worship. They also create and lead ceremonies for special occasions like retirement, baby namings, or the dedication of a new home.
Tikkun Olam: Translating Jewish ideals into programs of social action
Social action based on Jewish ethics is a central part of Reconstructionist community activity. Poverty, racial discrimination, political injustice, war and environmental deterioration are concerns of Jews everywhere.
Reconstructionist congregations “adopt” families of refugees to the United States, support “soup kitchens” to feed the needy, and lobby within the Federal government for funds to support housing for the homeless. In Israel and North America, Reconstructionists actively support “The Women at the Wall,” who advocate equal worship rights for men and women in Israel.
Reconstructionists as a movement have committed themselves to reclamation and preservation of the environment.
Longtime Zionists, Reconstructionists support a broad variety of humanitarian, cultural and political organizations in Israel. Through the World Union for Progressive Judaism the Reconstructionist movement is actively involved in developing liberal Judaism in Israel.
Interested in becoming part of a Reconstructionist community?
There may be a Reconstructionist congregation or havurah near you.
If you are interested in approaching the Jewish tradition in a meaningful way and belonging to a community where your unique talents are appreciated and nurtured, please contact Tresa Grauer, our Vice President for Thriving Communities, at 215.576.0800, ext. 144 or contact us here.