Neve Shalom began in 1989 as an intentional community. We identified a set of principles that we review once a year to see how loyal we are to our vision. We call this a vision check.
In this introduction to Neve Shalom, we will introduce these notions and add commentary. Neve Shalom was founded because we believe that we are contributing to the creating of a new model for the American synagogue. At Neve Shalom, we always take the tradition as our model, but we also value imagination and creativity as tools for renewal. We believe that we are making space for an authentic spirituality to rise, and a deepening of living through the myths, symbols, and rituals of our people. This is a synagogue with a vision, and we hope we can communicate some of that vision in this document.
Neve Shalom belongs to the Network of Jewish Renewal Communities (see www.aleph.org). The Jewish Renewal "movement" began as a teaching, or a group of teachers, that
were influenced by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Reb Zalman attracted a
group of students and teachers that were associated with small communities that
arose spontaneously, mostly in North America, to teach each other the wisdom
of Judaism and to practice that wisdom with vitality and holy intent.
It began and continues to be a non-dogmatic form of Judaism, rejecting the
sectarian nature of denomentational Judaism.
Jewish renewal began as a way of teaching and celebrating Judaism by accessing
all of the resources of the Jewish past and present. Chassidic, halakhic,
kabbalistic, biblical, talmudic, the approach of Jewish renewal is to live in the entire
house, so to speak, or to tap every level of Jewish creativity.
Jewish renewal grew, I think, out of two inspirations, one lofty, one not so lofty.
The loftier inspiration were the teachings -- beautiful and compelling, imaginative
and challenging -- in a way that few of the early participants had experienced.
Jewish renewal grew out of a compelling set of teachings.
The less lofty inspiration was the mistakes of the Jewish past, the ways in which
we have tried to teach each other our traditions that left the most spiritually
seeking of us hungry, unsatisfied, unfulfilled.
Jewish renewal is a simple concept: the tradition is our guide, but our approach
is always imaginative and informal, personal and evocative.
We meet each other along the path of our deepest spiritual searching, guided by
the intuition that Judaism has something profound, sustaining, and beautiful to offer us.
The synagogue Neve Shalom was formed in 1989 to express the following values and ideas (affirmed by the Board of Neve Shalom on July 1, 1990):
First of all, we are a community. We have come together to nurture the invisible fibers of relationship that grow between individuals who accompany each other through the celebrations, and the sadnesses, of our lives. We teach spiritual responses to the challenges of grief, as well as communal celebrations of passages of joy, to deepen our experience of life.
We began in an unsectarian way, we are not Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, or Reconstructionist, we are just Jews. We teach renewal of the resources of Judaism in order to enhance living. Our practice is an imaginative mixture of tradition and innovation. The tradition is always our guide and our strength.
Simon the Just said (Avot 1:2), on three things does the world stand: on Torah, on worship, and on acts of lovingkindness. Neve Shalom takes the concept of service seriously. We also understand Simon the Just's words in terms of its sequence: there is no authentic service without learning and spiritual formation. We believe in changing the world, one person at a time.
At Neve Shalom, we apply imagination to the resources of the past. Spend a time with us and it will be clear that we are doing something different, something that has to do with the synthesis of the past with the best resource of the present.
We are after a synthesis at Neve Shalom. We believe that there is a level of synthesis beneath contradiction, a place of integration, wholeness, healing, and peace. And most of all we are pursuing the personal meeting, without which an authentic spirituality does not happen.
Rav Hiyya said, to make sure the Torah would not be forgotten in Israel, what did I do? I went to a small town that had no teachers and taught the five books of Moses to five children, and the six orders of the Mishnah to six children. I instructed them, until I return, teach each other the Torah and the Mishnah. And that is how I kept the Torah from being forgotten in Israel (Baba Metzia 85b). Learning, each at one's own level, is an ultimate value for us, and we are responsible to each other for it.
We believe that the spiritual quest is a lively quest, full of excitement and enthusiasm. Everything we do reflects the renewal that comes from a fresh approach and holy intent.
We have created a simplified, egalitarian, shared structure to run the synagogue with spirit, enthusiasm, and utilitarian efficiency so we can devote ourselves to our primary goals: respiritualization of our tradition and of ourselves.
We are a membership organization, that is, we depend on your membership fees to finance our many programs. We have not yet developed another way to raise the necessary resources. We also depend on you to search your hearts and support the synagogue to the best of your ability, and we believe that when you understand the loftiness of our goals and the nobility of our purpose, you will give.
We have avoided pouring our best resources into a building, liberating our modest revenues for where they will best be utilized, in programs for individual renewal and communal growth. God willing, someday our growth will necessitate our own building, but for our beginning phase, we believe in putting our best resources where they belong, in our people.
Neve Shalom is designed as a center for healing. We use healing in the sense of repair and restoration, integration and wholeness. We are trying to recapture a quality of religious life that comes from the spirit and is central to the transformational possibilities inherent in all spirituality. Through study, prayer, meditation, music, dialogue, and the performing arts, we are teaching our legacy from the past in fresh and imaginative forms.
We invite you to join us. We depend on your membership to unfold our vision.