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Reconstructing Judaism: Spotlights

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Reconstructing Judaism is much more than the name of our organization. It’s an ongoing process lived out every day in communities around the world. We continue to spotlight ways that our affiliated communities and individuals are reconstructing elements of Judaism, infusing them with new relevancy, purpose and meaning.

Do you have a spotlight? Let us know!

Reconstructing Passover: ‘Welcoming the Stranger’ Here and Now

Candlelight vigil outside immigration authority

Throughout the Tanakh, we’re commanded to love the stranger, for we were strangers in Egypt. In this interview from early 2018, Rabbi Elliott Tepperman of Bnai Keshet in Montclair, N.J., describes how his Reconstructionist community is moving from words to action in welcoming and caring for outsiders by becoming a sanctuary congregation for undocumented immigrants. On Passover, he says, when we open the door and recite, “Let all who are hungry, come and eat,” it’s often just meant as a nice metaphor. But this year, the meaning of that phrase has been reconstructed. “This year, we painted a room. We’ve put a bed in that room. We can say that with a whole heart, knowing that we mean it.”

Listen to the interview on Episode 10 of the Hashivenu Podcast.


Reconstructing Jewish Identity: Conversion as Reclaiming 

Certificate of Jewish status in English and Italian

The small sourthern Italian village of Serrastretta has a hidden past: Among its population are many families of anusim, hidden Jews whose ancestors were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Inquisition. Now, many locals are exploring their roots, thanks to new Reconstructionist affiliate Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud. While many seem satisfied to understand the origins of mysterious family customs and learn about their ancestral heritage, some choose to fully embrace Judaism through conversion. Through a unique document of “Reclaiming Jewish Status,” this community has reconstructed standard conversion as a reclaiming of stolen Jewishness.

Read more here.


Reconstructing Yahrtzeit: New Variations on a Familiar Ritual Add Meaning to Mourning

Yahrtzeit candles burning in darkened room

For centuries, it has been Jewish practice to commemorate the yahrzeit – the anniversary of the death of a loved one – by reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish in synagogue. As with any ritual, this custom can become a rote recitation. In this moving piece from Ritualwell, Ed Towbin of B’nai Havurah in Denver recounts the ways that he and his congregation have reconstructed the observance of yahrzeit, bringing “a new vitality to the sacred practice of remembering.”

Read more on Ritualwell.