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B'nai Tikvah

For spiritual-social friendship, renewal & service

Congregation B'nai Tikvah's Mission Statement

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We are a "People's Shul," firmly committed to making decisions in accordance with democratic process.

We respect tradition, but we are not afraid to question it. We embrace the Reconstructionist position that tradition has a vote, but not a veto.

We favor flexibility over dogmatism. Nothing is carved in stone except our desire to build as outstanding a congregation as possible.

We are eclectic in our openness to all teachings and practices, regardless of denomination, which nurture the experience of being part of a Jewish community and enhance our members' sense of spiritual fulfillment.

We gather regularly to observe the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, to study and to celebrate together.

We support one another in times of sorrow and rejoice in each other's gladness.

We actively engage in tikkun olom - the involvement in community affairs and translation of the Torah's teachings into concrete deeds of service in the world.

We do not believe that one religion is superior to another or that one people is superior to another. But we are deeply committed to the continuation of the Jewish People, the maintenance of Jewish life, and the belief in a universal God.

Our Religious School

From pre-school to Bar and Bat Mitzvah, the B’nai Tikvah Religious School focuses on teaching Jewish values. By acting on these values through community service, the school's commitment to living Judaism is reinforced.

By encouraging their students studying Torah to become commentators, our teachers support a child's innate sense of curiosity. In this way, the students are able to see the relevance of Torah to their own lives.

Prayer is taught with the understanding that these words are holy words, words that can bring peace and wholeness to our world. Students are offered the beauty of the rituals that our heritage provides.

Children learn an appreciation for the diversity that exists within Judaism and a recognition that Judaism has continually evolved from biblical days to the present.

Through "God Talk" our students see a view of God which reflects a spiritual faith consistent with a belief in the goodness of the universe and which motivates ethical living.

A student who becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah may continue his or her studies or is offered the opportunity to be a role model for the younger students as a teacher's aide.

Our congregation accepts matrilineal descent as well as patrilineal descent - a child is Jewish when either parent is Jewish and the child is raised as a Jew.

The B'nai Tikvah Religious School meets weekly at our Synagogue on Sunday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Rabbi Bruce Adler provides the B'nai Mitzvah students individual classes to augment their school studies.

Reconstructionism is the Fourth Major Movement In Judaism

A progressive, contemporary approach to

Jewish life which integrates a deep respect

for traditional Judaism with the insights

and ideas of contemporary social,

intellectual and spiritual life.


For Reconstructionism, Judaism is more than a religion: it is our history, our literature, art and music, our land and languages, as well as our spirituality and ritual observance. It is all of these, encompassed in a religious civilization.

Our sense of belonging to the Jewish people is affirmed through our shared past, our collective values and our communal experience of worship, study and celebration. Behaving and believing arise from belonging and are integral to our tradition and to our future.

Tradition, we believe, "has a vote but not a veto." We are respectful of traditional Jewish practice but also open to new interpretations and forms of religious expression. Our own religious tradition - egalitarian, participatory and inclusive - is a reflection of our ancestors' search for meaning, purpose and value.

Our diverse views of God share an emphasis on godliness, valuing that power in the universe that infuses all of creation with a sense of transcendence and impels us to improve the world and ourselves.

We will leave to future generations a legacy that is both spiritual and cultural, as the evolution of Judaism continues, and we continue to preserve and shape that legacy.

Congregation B'nai Tikvah's Seven Pillars









What Is Spirituality?

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I appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts about spirituality. This is a term which seems to mean different things to different people, and there are many ways that people can be spiritual. So, first, it might be helpful to elaborate on what is meant by the word spiritual. The following are all ways I have thought about spirituality at one time or another. Perhaps one or more will resonate with you, as well.

Meaning of Spirituality

•Spirituality means growing closer to G-d

•Spirituality is a quality of inner strength which enables us to meet the challenges of life 

•Spirituality means being in touch with the sacred and/or TRYING to be in touch with the sacred 

•Spirituality entails engaging in practices and techniques which open us to a sense of awe and wonder in the universe and ourselves 

•Spirituality means retaining a sense of balance 

•Spirituality means being able, at least for a while, to see the beauty, rather than the ugliness, of life 

•Spirituality implies a recognition of the deep, common bond that unites all of humanity

•Spirituality means finding a place of inner quietness, in a noisy world.

Key Ideas

There are many powerful spiritual ideas in Judaism. Ideas are important because they can help us see the world in ways which we hadn't thought of before. Let me share just four. 

One of the most powerful Jewish ideas that I have found spiritually inspiring is the notion that we are made in God's image. I once saw a picture of a mischievous little boy which had under it a caption which read, "I know I'm somebody cause God don't make no junk". We're ALL made in God's image, regardless of how blurred or hidden that image may sometimes seem. If we see ourselves as made in the image of God, we realize that we have very high potential and should endeavor to live up to being a creature made in the image of God. This idea also bears on the way we relate to others. Not only are WE made in the image of G-d, but all people are. All people are worthy of respect.

A second Jewish idea which I find personally meaningful is that it is a mitzvah to be joyful - to appreciate and be grateful for the gift of life. The "Brochot" - the blessings that we say each day, can heighten our sense of gratitude and appreciation. When you see a rainbow, do you take it for granted? We have a special blessing to remind us of the wonders of nature. When you eat, is it a perfunctory act, or do you use the opportunity to not only enjoy the food but to nourish your body/spirit for a purpose higher than mere animal gratification? Saying a "brocha" before and after eating can remind us that there is a sacred dimension to the act of eating, and also remind us how fortunate we are to have so many delicious varieties of food!

A third powerful Jewish idea is that every moment of life is precious, not to be squandered. In the Chapters of our Ancestors, Rabbi Eliezer urges us to "Repent one day before you die." The implication is, of course, that since we don't know when that day may be, we should therefore endeavor to LIVE WELL every day and try to establish a connection with the One who is the Source of Meaning and the Ground of Being.

Finally, a fourth idea that can powerfully influence how we see the world is to nurture an attitude in which we trust that all things happen for the best. This was how Joseph came to see the world and he revealed his belief when, after having been treated cruelly by his brothers, proclaimed "You meant to do me evil, but G-d had a different purpose in mind." When the family needed food, through the various twists and turns described in the Torah, Joseph was able to provide for them, and he finally recognized that what had at first seemed to be evil, was actually the Divine Hand at work.

How Is Spirituality Related to Ethics?

When we think of a spiritual person, I would imagine that most people have an image in mind of someone who is kind, compassionate and patient. But can you be spiritual while you're being attacked by a person with a gun? You might be if you consider the preservation of life - in this case, your own life, to be spiritual. Is protecting your country a spiritual thing to do? What about working to create a more just society? In a broad sense perhaps these, too, may be considered as spiritual.

Let me leave you with the words of a prayer/meditation I sing everyday: 

Radiant health, beauty and wellbeing...May these be yours and mine and every human being's.

What Is Renewal?

Since the founding of Congregation B'nai Tikvah as the first Reconstructionist congregation in the area, I have often been asked about the relationship between the Reconstructionist Movement and the Jewish Renewal Movement. In truth, there are many similarities and a great deal of cross-over exists between the movements. It is often the case that people who find Reconstructionism appealing will find the Renewal approach to Judaism appealing, as well - and vice versa. Many of the leading teachers in Renewal today are rabbis who have been ordained Reconstructionist.


On the face of it, this is actually quite remarkable because the movements began in rather different ways and their founders were individuals of contrasting personalities and temperament. Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionism, was a rationalist. Although Kaplan was still alive when I attended the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, I did not have the opportunity to personally meet him. Kaplan passed away the year I was ordained, in 1983, at 103 years of age. I did, however, have frequent contact with Kaplan's daughter, Judith Eisenstein, and Kaplan's son-in-law, Rabbi Ira Eisenstein, who took over the leadership of the movement after Kaplan and was, himself, largely responsible for establishing the Reconstructionist Movement as an independent branch, distinct from the Conservative Movement from which it emerged.


Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, widely regarded as the grandfather of Jewish Renewal, was, like Kaplan, raised in a traditional Jewish household. Whereas Kaplan started out Orthodox and is best described as a rationalist thinker, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi was ordained as a Chabad Chasidic rabbi from the Lubavitch Yeshiva in Crown Heights, in 1947, and was (Reb Zalman passed away in 2014) of a mystical bent. Kaplan and Schachter-Shalomi are similar in that they both departed significantly from the Judaism they initially embraced, and that they both developed approaches to Judaism which would prove to be highly influential and appealing to large numbers of contemporary followers.

Mordecai Kaplan's Judaism was deeply influenced by the disciplines of sociology and psychology, and by the American ideals of democracy and equality. Zalman Schachter-Shalomi has forged an approach to Judaism which is eclectic and interdisciplinary, drawing not only from Chasidism and Kabbalah, but from the other great world religions, as well. In 1975, Reb Zalman became Professor of Religion in Jewish Mysticism and Psychology of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia.

While I was studying for the rabbinate at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, I was also working on my masters degree in Comparative World Religions down the street at Temple University. It was there that I first met Reb Zalman. Prior to rabbinical school, in Philadelphia, I had majored in East Asian religions at the University of Wisconsin and attended Lubavitch yeshivas, as Reb Zalman had. When we met, I felt an immediate sense of closeness to him and soon became part of the inner circle which met regularly at his home for discussion and engagement in various spiritual practices. We didn't specifically refer to them back then as renewalist but they included sacred dance, chanting, various forms of yoga and meditation.


For whatever reason, Philadelphia seems to have provided a nurturing environment for alternative Jewish movements. While Mordecai Kaplan taught at the Conservative Movement's Jewish Theological Seminary, in New York, the Reconstructionist Movement took root in Philadelphia when the Rabbinical College was established there in 1967. While Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi was teaching at Temple University, he was also building what, at that time, was called the P'nai Or Religious Fellowship. It was the forerunner of what is today known as Aleph - the Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

Mordecai Kaplan initially attracted Jews who were no longer able to believe in the Judaism with which they had been brought up. He offered an intellectually vigorous approach to Judaism which first found expression in his book Judaism as a Civilization - Toward the Reconstruction of American Jewish Life, published for the first time in 1934. Kaplan's well-known quote - tradition has a vote, not a veto - continues to aptly characterize Reconstructionist congregations, whose members seek to meaningfully blend tradition and contemporary life.


Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi emerged on the scene as somewhat of a Jewish guru figure offering inspiration and meaning to those hungry for spirituality. He has remained on the forefront as an innovator and important spiritual teacher to this day. Reb Zalman held the World WIsdom Chair at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorodo. The chair holder is "an individual who exemplifies with distinction the scholar/practitioner traditions of a world religion or humanistic discipline, serving as special guide and elder...and provides for the integration of world wisdom traditions with modern culture."

While Jewish Renewal began as a grass roots movement and considers itself transdenominational, it has in recent years grown more institutionally conscious and organizationally sophisticated. There are approximately 40 Renewal groups currently affiliated with Aleph. The Reconstructionist Movement has come into its own as the 4th major movement in Judaism today. There are approximately 100 congregations currently affiliated with the Jewish Reconstructionist Movement.

While Congregation B'nai Tikvah was officially Reconstructionist since its founding in August 1998, the B'nai Tikvah Reconstructionist Chavura continues to be unofficially Renewalist in spirit, sharing an openness to exploration and experimentation, and a willingness to embrace ideas and practices which contribute to spiritual health and well-being.

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