Dear Members and Friends,

Welcome to our Visioning Process, begun in April of 2015! We welcome your input, comments, and suggestions.  Please feel free to e-mail Rabbi Jeremy Schwartz at ravjeremy@templebnaiisrael.org  If you are not on our e-mail distribution list, and would like to receive updates regarding our Visioning Process, please e-mail office@templebnaiisrael.org and asked to be added to our list.  Thank you.

Visioning Statement of Purpose

Rooted in the solid foundations of Temple Bnai Israel as it currently is, and in the evolving civilization of the Jewish people, we seek, through an open-minded visioning process, to formulate the best way to sustainably foster and serve the Jewish community in Northeast Connecticut (including the non-Jewish participants in that community) for the coming several decades.

The Visioning Process

On April 26th, 2015, Temple Bnai Israel launched a “Visioning Process” hosted by the Temple, but not limited to its members.   We view the process as a creative conversation about the future of the Jewish community in Northeast Connecticut (including the non-Jewish participants in that community). During the Visioning launch, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Reconstructionist Communities, helped us understand the historical context of our visioning process: the historical variety of ways of being Jewish and organizing Jewish community; the way the 20th century American synagogue was built to address the conditions of 20th century America; and the changes now taking place in American Jewish demographics, attitudes, etc.  She inspired us to be “willfully and intentionally optimistic.”

Our next step in the process was for Temple members to host small group visioning gatherings.  At these get-togethers, participants were asked to imagine moving to a new small town where there was a thriving Jewish community that made them happy. What did that community look like?  They explored ideas about the physical space and the programming of our community.  Our main goal was to understand what participants felt ought to be the core (or perhaps the several cores) of our community.

Following the small-group get-togethers, our Visioning Committee assembled the input about vision and priorities and determine how best to craft a practical plan (or choice of plans) to be presented to the membership for decisions as we move on to the next phase of our project.

We are now ready to implement those ideas that are implementable, prioritize more long-term ideas, and move toward our purpose of formulating a vision that provides ‘the best way to sustainably foster and serve the Jewish community in Northeast Connecticut (including the non-Jewish participants in the community) for the coming several decades.’” This undertaking will be moved forward by various task forces: Cultural, Intellectual Opportunities, Children & Families, Spirituality and Ritual, and a Long Term Planning Committee, in addition to the standing committees of the Temple (and all of us!).

The Long Term Planning Committee (LTPC) is researching some of the “big ideas” of structural change that came out in last summer’s discussions, learning enough to bring them back to the community for further consideration where there seems to be sufficient interest and practical potential. The LTPC will also coordinate and prioritize the input from the task forces, including understanding how their priorities impact our physical plant needs, and will be the address for miscellaneous aspects of the Visioning process that don’t fit elsewhere.

In this Visioning process, we are committed to hearing the voices of the local Jewish “ecosystem,” whether “affiliated” or not. We are committed to hearing the voices of the non-Jewish fellow-travelers in our community.  And we are committed to building a vision that is really freshly based on the core aspects that we learn in our conversations, not in old assumptions about what a Jewish community or synagogue should be like. Below is an “Innovation Gallery” of cutting-edge ideas from around the country that we shared at the launch as a way of inspiring our own creativity.

For up-to-date task force reports, see the current issue of The Bulletin.

We hope you’ll join us on this exciting and crucial journey.

Innovation Gallery

At the launch event for our visioning process, we featured an “Innovation Gallery” of eight Jewish communities or organizations that many would consider to be on the “cutting edge” of the North American Jewish world.  Summaries of these organizations are shared below, along with links to their websites, so that you can learn more about them.  Many of these innovators are rather specific to their location and membership, so we don’t believe we can “cut and paste” their ideas into Northeast Connecticut, although we might want to borrow or “riff on” some aspect of what some of these communities are doing.  We share them primarily to encourage a mood of positive creativity.  It is possible to “do” Jewish community in many ways, and it is possible to be thoughtful, creative, and successful doing so.You’ll see that some of these are synagogues, though with particular takes on membership or worship or leadership.  Others are not synagogues.  Some have a residential component – Jews living with or near each other on purpose as the core of a community.  Some put something other than worship – for example, culture or tikkum olam (repairing the world) – at the center of the community.  We noticed after the event that none of them put Torah/Jewish learning at the center, as many Jewish communities have done historically.  That would also be interesting to imagine in a rural, liberal context.

Please share your thoughts with us on the many possibilities that exist for Jewish community!  You can e-mail Rabbi Jeremy Schwartz at ravjeremy@templebnaiisrael.org

So, please READ, LEARN, ENJOY, IMAGINE! 

Sixth & I

  • Non-membership synagogue
  • Multi-dimensional
  • Celebrates the unexpected places where Jewish and secular culture meet
  • Impactful, entertaining, and thought-provoking programs open to the entire community

Moishe Kavod House

  • Home-based Jewish community for people in their 20s and 30s
  • Dedicated to tikkun olam, the repair of the world
  • Integrating arts, learning, Jewish spiritual practice, and social justice work,
  • Powered by community volunteers, team leaders, board members, and resident organizers

Art Kibbutz NY

  •  International Jewish artist residency
  • Community of 500+ artists
  • Art hub

Kavana Cooperative

  • Independent Jewish community in Seattle|
  • Non-Denominational & Pluralistic
  • “Personalized Judaism in a Community Context”
  • Local
  • Each partner commits to taking an active role, to being a “producer” rather than just a “consumer” of Jewish life
  • Kavana’s programs center around:
    -Shabbat & Holidays
    -Learning
    -Community (social events and social activism)
    -Family
    -Events take place at community centers, coffee shops, parks, and                 homes

Urban Adamah

  • An educational farm and community center
  • Integrates the practices of Jewish tradition, sustainable agriculture, mindfulness and social action
  • Educational programs and community celebrations for more than 5,000 visitors a year,
  • Residential fellowship program for young adults
  • Produces a diverse yield of crops, all of which we donate to the local community through food banks and our weekly Free Farm Stand.

Slice of Heaven Breads

  • A non-profit, charitable bakery housed in the Temple Sinai kitchen.
  • Volunteer program
  • Produces and sells a variety of breads and baked goods
  • Proceeds supporting hunger relief programs, Temple Sinai’s programs, and other charitable causes.
  • Offers bread baking lessons,provides training and employment to individuals with disabilities,
  • Donates and distributes challah weekly to nursing home residents, hospital patients, and the needy.
  • Donates products for local non-profit fund-raising efforts.

Urban Moshav

Urban Moshav is a non-profit development partner for creating Jewish co-housing.

  • Co-housing is a form of intentional neighborhood, with extensive common facilities, in which people know their neighbors well and participate actively in community life. (Common facilities include a group dining hall and kitchen and possibly also indoor or outdoor recreation space, a lounge, a community garden, a children’s playroom, guest rooms, an art or exercise studio, a workshop, office space, and vehicles.)
  • Jewishcohousing is a modern village where neighbors engage together in Jewish ritual, study, and culture, creating a milieu in which daily life is infused with Jewish life and where Jewish literacy, identity, and values can flourish.

Romemu

  • A welcoming home where men and women participate equally and fully in song, dance, learning, and praying
  • An oasis in New York City where you can focus on your heart and catch your breath
  • A place where we chant Hebrew prayers together, sing powerful wordless melodies, and have moments of deep silence
  • A space that honors insights and practices found in many eastern spiritual paths, and that offers meditation and yoga within a deeply Jewish practice
  • A center dedicated to a Yiddishkeit – Judaism – that opens body, heart, mind, and spirit to experience greater compassion, courage, and joy in our lives.