Thursday, January 5, 2012

What am I looking for, anyway?

People keep asking me what my ideal congregation would look like. I guess I should take a stab at it.

1. A vibrant community I'd like to find a multi-generational community where people care about each other and the congregation. It would be nice if most of the people were middle-class and not ostentatious. I want The Little Jewess to learn that who you're with is more important than what you spend. And I'd like a core group of people who attend regularly that I could get to know and depend upon.

2. Liberal Values I want to celebrate with the 99%. One thing that draws me to Humanism is their stance on human dignity. I'd like a congregation where people are committed to social justice, and active in pursuing dignity for all people.

3. Science Rational thought is essential. I've always taken a rational approach to religion. It's part of being a Progressive. But now that I don't believe in God, a strong belief in science and the ability to apply reason to religious text and tradition is that much more important to me.

4. School I have a background in Education as well as Religion, so I judge schools very critically. The Little Jewess needs to be in a school (and we're talking Sunday School here--she's all set with secular school) where she is encouraged to think and to question. I want her to grow up feeling secure in her community, but also free to think, argue, discuss and question religious texts. I believe this is the best way to combat fundamentalism, and it's also the best way to be happy. Because we can only make good choices if we've thought through all of the possibilities. If we're slaves to doctrine, we can't do that.

5. Judaism I've been thinking about this one a lot. I have a few friends who are also seeking the right community, but who aren't Jewish, or are in mixed marriages. They might join me in forming something if it's not Jewish or not solely Jewish. It's a possibility I'm willing to consider, but I've always been Jewish, it's what I know best, and it's what brings me comfort. Also, I don't want to stop identifying as a Jew. There are so many aspects to Judaism, and God is such a small part of that. I think the ideal congregation would be fundamentally Jewish, but I wouldn't mind a community that is open to people of other faiths and I definitely wouldn't mind if the Kid School teaches about other religions.

Is that so hard to find? Does anyone know where I can find it? Or is it time to start making it myself?

On that note, a friend mentioned to me the possibility of creating a chavurah (literally: fellowship, but usually a chavurah functions as a prayer group that travels from home to home, like a book club for celebrating Shabbat.) while maintaining membership in a brick-and-mortar Temple for things that we need there, like Religious School. It's an interesting idea, and it's something that could even be done within a congregation. Or it's something I could do with my non-Jewish friends (see above) while maintaining the link to my current (or another) congregation for the Jewish stuff.

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