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FAQs About Reconstructionist Judaism

What do Reconstructionist Jews Believe About God?

Reconstructionists hold diverse ideas about God, but we share an emphasis on Godliness--those hopes, beliefs, and values within us that impel us to work for a better world, that give us strength and solace in times of need, that challenge us to grow, and that deepen our joy. God is viewed as a creative energy and a force for good.  God isn’t talked about as a superhuman figure with an ego and emotions (or gender, for that matter, which makes pronouns tricky). God is seen as a spirit of love encompassing the universe and inhabiting its creatures.  In our liturgy, God is referred to by many names, such as Holy One, Source, Teacher, Boundless One, the Eternal, the Bountiful, to express the many ways this force expresses itself for good in our lives.

What is Important About Reconstructionist Judaism's Values System?

Reconstructionist Judaism emphasizes the importance of social justice alongside study and prayer as an essential part of spiritual practice. We’re called on not just to do no harm, but to help to repair the world (Tikkun Olam).  At CBH, we discuss the issues that are important to the future of our own children, our neighbors’ children, and the world’s, and we look for ways to work together to make things better.  Most importantly, we strive to remember that we can disagree about root causes, strategies, or politics, but we’re all people of good will that make up one community.

What Are Services Like?

Our services are accessible and meaningful.  They are filled with singing.  Everyone joins in--whether we can carry a tune or not.  We use a lot of Hebrew (the prayerbook contains transliteration in English so everyone can read along)vand also a lot of English readings that make the connection between the traditional liturgy and our lives in very beautiful ways.  

Sometimes our prayerbook deviates from the traditional, either by offering an interpretive version of a prayer alongside the original or by changing or adding words to the original.  For example, in prayers like the Mourners Kaddish, where the traditional version asks God to make peace "for all Israel," we add the words "and for all who dwell on earth."  

Our rabbi offers wonderful little teachings throughout the service that bring home the meaning of what we're saying.  Sometimes she delivers a short, thoughtful sermon; sometimes we have a group discussion about an issue or subject of interest; sometimes a guest speaker makes a presentation.  Dress is informal.  

How is a Reconstructionist Synagogue Different Than What I'm Used To?

If you grew up in a different stream of Judaism, a few things at CBH may be different than you’re used to—like not using the words “chosen people” in our prayers or the collaborative relationship between the Rabbi and the congregation and the "values-based" democratic decision-making process we use.  At the same time, most people find plenty of the beloved traditions they grew up with, and they quickly grow comfortable with the unfamiliar aspects they encounter and enjoy the opportunity to refresh their Jewish experience.

How do Reconstructionist Jews Approach Jewish Law (Halachah)?

CBH members make their own decisions about how to deal with Jewish law and tradition in their personal lives.  As a community we regulate our practices in keeping with the Reconstructionist attitude towards Jewish traditions:  We honor them for the wisdom they contain and for the connection with our history and culture they provide.  At the same time, when we encounter ideas, rituals, or rules that we can no longer embrace in good faith, we remake them in the light of our contemporary values.

Take kashrut, for example.  In their homes, most CBH members don’t keep kosher.  Some may be traditionally kosher or follow biblical kosher rules (e.g., not eating shellfish or pork) and others have reconstructed the idea of expressing religious and ethical values through diet by becoming vegetarians or only eating responsibly produced foods.  As a community it’s important to us that everyone who comes to our house be able to share our food, so we developed a policy for the synagogue that respects everyone’s needs.   

Wed, July 15 2020 23 Tammuz 5780