Our Identity and Mission
Havurat Tikvah is a member-led, egalitarian group that began meeting in 1988. After 11 years as an independent organization, we affiliated with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (JRF) in 1999. In 2012 a historic change was made and the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation finalized its merger with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) to form the Jewish Reconstructionist Movement which now serves as the governing body. At the end of 2013, the name was officially changed to Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, In Association with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
The essence of Reconstructionism is community-building through learning, revitalization of prayer and mutual support. The movement has strong commitments both to tradition and to searching for contemporary meaning. It also encourages all Jews to reclaim our shared heritage and become active participants in the building of a Jewish future.
Founded in the fall of 1988, Havurat Tikvah began as a fellowship of about 15 families that celebrated holidays and some Shabbats together. We ambitiously decided to hold our own High Holy Day services in the fall of 1989. We learned and led all the services. High Holy Days have been a major highlight of our year ever since. We later added a Sunday school and monthly Shabbat services.
This Community of Hope shared a mission to develop a community that was participatory and egalitarian while embracing the richness of all Jewish history, culture and practice.
We were nurtured by the Jewish Renewal movement and are affiliated with the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities. We continue to be lay-led and are dedicated to active participation in our beloved Havurah as well as in Jewish affairs and in the Charlotte community.
Every Member, An Active Member
Havurat Tikvah does not have a permanent rabbi or professional staff to direct programming. We rely on our members to plan and lead religious services, generate programs and holiday celebrations, provide food for events, support members in need, and perform hospitality tasks. You will be appreciated whether you give a D’var Torah or push a broom!
Every adult member is expected to contribute “Mitzvah Dues” of service in addition to Financial Dues. For more details, look at Mitzvah Dues in Join.
Thanks to a high level of member participation, Havurat Tikvah remains an affordable and vital community. Another bonus of volunteering: it’s a great way to make new friends, deepen existing relationships and expand your Jewish learning.
Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam
We encourage our membership to engage in the Jewish precepts of Tzedakah (charity) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). Social action projects help us to fulfill these principles and provide us with opportunities to interact with each other and the rest of the Jewish and non-Jewish community. Some of our on-going projects include Project Linus (knitting blankets for patients and others in need), Friendship Trays (food for the elderly and disabled), Room in the Inn, Urban Ministries, Shalom Bayit and Jewish Family Services. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our teen group, Mitzvah in Action (MIA!), offers a tremendous support to our Tzedakah projects and other congregational and community needs. You can find out more about them in the news section of this website or by email at email@example.com or by visiting mitzvahinaction.info.
What is Reconstructionist Judaism?
Reconstructionist Judaism recognizes that Judaism is always evolving in response to the surrounding culture. Reconstructionist Jews try to transform this evolution into a thoughtful, self-conscious process. Within small communities, we experiment with Jewish ideas and practices. Our guides include Jewish law and tradition, individual conscience and contemporary ideas about ethics and spirituality.
Reconstructionist discussion is inspired by the ideas of the founder of the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (1881–1983). Rabbi Kaplan, ordained both as a Conservative and Orthodox rabbi, taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) and was a major influence on Conservative thought and practice. Concerned that Judaism would not survive unless it was reconstructed to speak to the needs and in the idiom of contemporary Jews, and intrigued by new perspectives on religion provided by modern philosophers (i.e., John Dewey) and social scientists (i.e., Emile Durkheim), he began to publish his views in the 1930’s.
Rabbi Kaplan defined Judaism as a civilization primarily identified by its religious aspects: the search for what is meaningful in life and ways to express it. Jews were a people linked by a common history, culture and destiny, he wrote, a people who answered the call from God but who were not necessarily chosen. He also argued that Jews in America could live in two civilizations at once, without conflict. Rabbi Kaplan defined God as a force for goodness in the world, rather than as a supernatural being. Religion was an expression of our highest values and most profound wisdom, rather than God-given commandments.
Valuing traditional prayer in Hebrew and ritual, Rabbi Kaplan altered only what he found most objectionable. References to the chosenness of the Jewish people and to the resurrection of the dead were deleted. He extended the coming of age ceremony, once restricted to males, to young women with the Bat Mitzvah. He proposed a new role for rabbis as teachers and as leaders of communal decision-making based on Jewish values.
Today’s Jewish Reconstructionist Communities fosters spirituality along with lifelong Jewish learning and has expanded its commitment to gender equality and inclusiveness. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, for example, includes openly gay men and lesbians among its graduates.
For a fuller introduction, read “Exploring Judaism, A Reconstructionist Approach” by Rebecca T. Alpert and Jacob J. Staub, from The Reconstructionist Press, or visit The Jewish Reconstructionist Communities website (jewishrecon.org) or the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College website (www.rrc.edu/resources/mordecai-m-kaplan).