A Reconstructionist Community, Part 1

Adapted from the Keddem Outlook, March 1999 (Adar/Nisan 5759)

In the spirit of the four questions associated with the Pesach festival: "Mah nishtanah?" Why is Reconstructionism different from other approaches to Judaism? We are taking an active approach to Judaism, engaging Judaism by choice, seeking meaning and new understanding of the substance behind our rituals and services. We are part of a tradition that recognizes that Judaism must evolve and speak to each generation, that as we seek new meanings in our ancient rituals we find an enormously rich reservoir, but one that we must actively engage. We are trying to build a community where such things matter. In another article, we'll talk more about Reconstructionism. In this, we'll focus on community.

At Keddem we seek to create an environment where we look forward to seeing friends at services and study sessions and events, whether studying Torah or sharing the joys of Shabbat or Purim or Pesach. Part of being a Jew entails being part of a community, whether it is ten Jews praying together to form a minyan, or getting together to light the Shabbat candles, make Kiddush, or Havdalah, or enjoying a Shabbat dinner or Pesach Seder. Many of these activities are things we can do as individuals acting together; others are more readily catalyzed by congregational initiative. But all of these experiences start with a desire to act and engage our Judaism.

Growing the community: if each member invited one or two friends to participate and they found us engaging, there would be enormous potential for growth. While there is an ever-present concern for balancing intimacy and growth, the fact of the matter is that we need growth to support the desired infrastructure of a rabbi and facility. The recently formed Shalom Committee is a first step in our efforts to improve our welcoming of new members into the community. There is much more that can be done, and will be done, in this arena. A new members event to "Meet the Board" and a series of classes providing an "Introduction to Judaism--a Reconstructionist Approach" are on the horizon. Part of "being inclusive" means actively exploring and creating new approaches for welcoming our members, for extending both our Inreach and our Outreach.

Communication is essential to community. Being geographically dispersed, not living in a four square block area as our ancestors did, having fewer casual encounters while food shopping or dealing with children's schooling, we are probably as likely to meet in book stores as in food stores. Our semi-annual Congregational Meetings are one way to get more input from the community; the focus groups we've held also created another forum for inputs and suggestions. Do you have suggestions for changes to existing programs or new programs? We encourage you to speak or write to the board, or come to a board meeting; they are always open to all. We need to hear from the congregation, and we need to make sure everyone knows how to make the process work.

More involvement in onegs, giving us the opportunity to nosh and schmooze a bit more after services, enjoying the opportunity to spend more time together. Seize the opportunity to organize and sponsor a Friday night oneg or Shabbat morning kiddush, as some members have already done. If ten people chose to sponsor one or two a year it would be covered, and our social environment would be greatly enhanced.

Keddem is part of a larger community--locally, regionally, nationally and internationally--an active world beyond the synagogue. We are part of an evolving tradition that is thousands of years old, taking hold of Torah while rethinking our modern Judaism. There are many voices to be heard. Get involved, there is much to do.

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