It used to be that you had to go to a church or synagogue if you wanted to be part of a religious community. Today, congregations are venturing out into the world to meet people where they are – and that’s changing the whole relationship between these institutions and the people they hope will become members.
Consider Congregation Beth Hatikvah, a 24-year-old Reconstructionist Jewish congregation in Summit. Most people – including most Jews – have no idea what Reconstructionism is. So that’s one obstacle in recruiting new members. Plus, people of all faiths increasingly are going it alone – not affiliating, or only connecting with a community when there’s a transaction to be completed, like a baptism or bar mitzvah, a wedding or a funeral.
Beth Hatikvah is jumping into the fray by inviting the community to a Coffeehouse at Short Stories Bookshop and Community Hub, 23 Main Street in Madison, on Saturday Jan. 7 from 7-9 p.m.
It will be an evening of entertainment and connection making. Singers and musicians from the congregation will perform folk, bluegrass, rock, Broadway, classical and Jewish music. Professional comic Doug Max – whose father Bob is the synagogue’s founding president – will emcee, along with congregant Marsha Baldinger. Rabbi Hannah Orden will conduct a brief havdalah ceremony – that’s the musical ritual that ends the Sabbath on Saturday night.
Wine, cheese and coffee will be served. Guests can apply the $10 admission towards purchase of a book by one of Beth Hatikvah’s many authors, some of whom will be on hand to sign copies.
Reconstructionism is a branch of Judaism that honors tradition but adapts it to meet the needs of the time. It embraces the idea that Judaism is a “civilization,” not just a religion, and so emphasizes cultural expressions of Judaism, from music to food to social action. Beth Hatikvah has a creative religious school, active tot and teen programs, a range of adult learning activities, a deeply engaged social justice effort and a robust program of spiritual activities.