"When one stands face to face with creation, with its intricacy and beauty, its exquisitely calibrated functionality, one cannot but fall in love with the Creator behind the creation. One cannot but become imbued with the most total adoration. One cannot but be swept away by an insatiable passion to understand and to search for intimacy with the force behind it all." (Maimonides)
Jews are a passionate people. We are passionate in our relationship with God, passionate in our love for Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people and passionate in our desire to repair our world. Too often this passion is hidden beneath formality, decorum and judgement. In THE TENT, we strive to uncover and celebrate this passion. We take inspiration from Jewish communities, like those in the Havurah movement and Chabad that have imbued passion into their learning and living.
Chabad is influenced by the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, a great Jew of 18th-century Eastern Europe who loved his people with an immeasurable passion. The calamities of his time had created a situation in which there were many simple Jews who had no learning and little knowledge, alongside great scholars who looked askance at the ignorance of these commoners. The Baal Shem Tov taught us to look deeper, beyond the knowledge of a person, beyond his or her outward behavior, into the depths of his or her heart, to find there the divine spark and reveal it with unconditional love.
Today's Jews are not simple - we are a complex people of faith, doubt, dedication and questions. THE TENT seeks to approach our friends with the same passion and love that the Baal Shem Tov and Chabad approach their communities but with a more progressive outlook on Judaism and life in general.
Pluralistic Judaism is based on the Jewish concept of “Tarbut HaMachloket,” which, in Hebrew means “freedom of thinking and speech.” Tarbut HaMachloket dates back to ancient times when conflicting views of Judaism were represented by the polar opposites, Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. Hillel’s more liberal views often took precedence over Shammai’s more strict interpretations, however the sages emphasized that both views, although sometimes contrary one to another, were valid.
Pluralistic Judaism offers a practical application of Tarbut HaMalchloket by being open and welcoming to Jews of all backgrounds. This means that we accept the full participation of women and extend the hand of Jewish welcome to interfaith families, gay and lesbian partners and their children. Traditionally observant Jews are respected and made to feel at home alongside Jews who are new to or returning to synagogue observance.
We respect Halachah (Jewish law) and empower each person to make her or his own choices regarding personal observance. Pluralistic Judaism acknowledges that the word “halachah” is based in the Hebrew root, “holech,” which means “to walk.” Thus, halachah is a changing phenomenon, implying that Jewish law moves forward and embraces new knowledge.
Pluralistic Judaism is dedicated to achieving a balance between Jewish tradition and new ideas so that Judaism becomes and remains relevant to modern life. (Borrowed and adapted from Rabbi Barbara Aiello.)
The term "Underconstructionist Jew" was coined by Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus, Stalking Elijah and other wonderful books. At OHEL, being Underconstructionist means never being complete - never having all the answers. As Jews we are obligated to keep learning, to keep growing. The midrash teaches us, "No blade of grass grows without an angel telling it to 'Grow!'" Like a blade of grass, we each have an angel commanding us to grow, change and become.
As a pluralistic, Underconstructionist community, THE TENT is committed to empowering each person who enters the tent to craft their own Jewish journey regardless of their background or affiliation. We call ourselves a "new kind of Jewish community" because in every moment we re-imagine ourselves and become, anew, the people and the community we wish to be.
If you don't have all the answers; if you are still searching; if you are looking to grow - then let us welcome you into THE TENT!
Justice is a central value in the Torah and a value that must be pursued in all arenas of contemporary life. We are inspired by Deuteronomy 16:20 where we learn, "Justice, justice you shall pursue."
As proudly progressive Jews we believe that all people: Men and women, Jews-by-birth, Jews-by-choice and our non-Jewish friends and family, LGBTQ+ and straight, Jewish couples and interfaith couples, learned and learning, deserve dignity and full participation in Jewish life. Our customs, celebrations and liturgy reflect this openness and invite every person to see themselves in Torah and Jewish life.
People of all political stripes are welcome and encouraged to share their perspectives when done so respectfully and with an appreciation for diversity of opinion. While we don't take partisan positions we do believe that Jewish wisdom has much to say about political, social and economic questions.
We proudly stand for common-sense gun regulation, full equality for the LGBTQ+ community, equal pay for equal work, affordable healthcare as a right, reform of the justice system and an appreciation for our role in addressing global warming. We love Israel deeply and from that love comes praise for all of her accomplishments. That love also demands that we hold her accountable when she falls short in living up to her promise.