Shir Tikvah into the Future

The work of a synagogue, or any organization for that matter, is never over, and Shir Tikvah is no exception. Although the synagogue has made enormous strides in solidifying itself and its identity, there are still many places where it can improve and many directions that it can go in the future to continue to be successful. Below are some of the areas that members of the Shir Tikvah community hope to see improvements in as well as other ideas for the future. The discussion of this topic and these points will change as the congregation continues to grow and with Shir Tikvah’s new innovations. Parts of these discussions are already taking place with a transparency task force at Shir Tikvah, which seeks to address problems brought up by the community.1

The work of inclusion: With the topic of inclusion so central at Shir Tikvah, it begs the question of who exactly is included. Shir Tikvah has made it very clear that people who identify as LGBTQ are included in their definition of this term, and that people who hold the progressive ideas of the synagogue are welcome as well. Yet would someone with conservative political views be included, or even accepted, at Shir Tikvah? David Harris helps differentiate between having shared values and a shared political platform, stating that, “[Shir Tikvah] is moving towards a shared political platform and that’s dangerous thing in my opinion. If you’re really going to have a diverse community you have to allow other voices to be in the conversation."2

The role of LGBTQ acceptance and advocacy: Due to the fact that Shir Tikvah was founded on an issue of gay rights, that all of the clergy is gay, and their work towards marriage equality, Shir Tikvah has started to be known as “the gay synagogue.” The problem with this perception is that members do not want Shir Tikvah to have this conception. When Rabbi Offner founded the synagogue, she made it very clear that it was not to be a gay congregation, and the LGBTQ identified members of the synagogue want all of their identities, not only their sexual orientations, to be made salient.3

Lay leadership and music: There is less of an emphasis on lay leadership and music in services overall, than there once was. People who feel that music was an extremely important part of Shir Tikvah and a major draw-in of the community, are extremely disappointed with these changes. In addition to feeling as though the music is less present, congregants noticed changes in the music program, with less diversity in tunes and musical style. These changes and observations of certain types of music no longer being a part of the service have led some to leave Shir Tikvah.4

Shir Tikvah’s aging population: A third of Shir Tikvah’s current congregation is over 55 years old. The aging population is more inclined to see the synagogue function as it always has, which is something that has to change in order for Shir Tikvah to truly be a progressive synagogue. An aging population can strain congregational resources so there have been discussions on creating intergenerational opportunities at Shir Tikvah in order to foster support groups for aging members.5 There have also been ideas about doing programs in and using alternative spaces as a way to find potential new members. President Ray Levi explains that, “[Shir Tikvah] should be going to them rather than them coming to [Shir Tikvah].”6

Shir Tikvah’s building: One change that most people say is highly necessary and extremely important to think about is the Shir Tikvah's physical building. There is no elevator in the building, nowhere to park, and with the growing population there is no room for the congregation to carry out all of its activities. High holiday services are already held at a different location. Shir Tikvah’s building no longer meets the congregation’s needs, but since the mortgage was just paid off, the decision of what to do is not so simple.7

Shir Tikvah as a growing community: When Shir Tikvah was first founded it consisted of forty families and now the congregation has grown to more than 400 families. As a result of this growth, the experience that one once had at Shir Tikvah is somewhat different than that which members have today.8 The larger community no longer provides the tightknit feeling that Shir Tikvah once had, one where the Rabbi knows everyone's name, who they are, and when they joined, as Rabbi Offner once did.9 This is no longer completely possible, which is one of the consequences of growing. Some believe it to be wrong choice to cap membership, for that is the death of the congregation's claims to inclusivity, but is there a way to maintain a tight-knit in the midst of growth?

Education: There is a slight trade off in adult education that results from Shir Tikvah’s attempts to balance the traditions of Judaism with the progressive ideals. This balancing act, as well as a lack of resources, contributes to a problem of not being able to offer the type of education that people desire. Shir Tikvah is very successful in running lower level classes such as Judaism 101, but this leaves people with more Jewish experience who want something more complicated at a loss with a need to go somewhere else for this part of their education.10 In the future, more sophisticated classes for those people with more Jewish knowledge would be beneficial.

Early childhood programs: Unlike most synagogues, Shir Tikvah does not have an early childhood program such as a preschool. Because of this lack of a program, many young families are forced to enroll somewhere else for early childhood programs, and once the families make this move to a different synagogue they tend to remain there. Shir Tikvah’s president Ray Levi has a vision for an early childhood program that serves as a model for good early childhood education that includes the Jewish experience.11


  1. Anonymous, interview by author, 10/30/13

  1. David Harris, interview by author, 11/13/2013

  1. Cookie Montgomery, interview by author, 11/1/2013

  1. Anonymous, interview by author, 10/30/13

  1. Anonymous, interview by author, 10/30/13

  1. Ray Levi, interview by author, 11/13/2013 ↩

  1. Robin Doroshow, interview by author, 11/6/2013

  1. Anonymous, interview by author, 10/30/13 ↩

  1. Cookie Montgomery, interview by author, 11/1/2013 ↩

  1. Anonymous, interview by author, 10/30/13 

  1. Ray Levi, interview by author, 11/13/2013 ↩