Shir Tikvah as a Progressive Community

Members in prayer service

Shir Tikvah, even with its emphasis on activism, still holds regular reform Judaism services.

Shir Tikvah identifies itself as a Progressive Reform community, but with that identity comes questions of meaning and of purpose. Shir Tikvah’s progressive values lend themselves to questions of whether it is possible to be too accepting, too inclusive, or too politically active. Is there a limit to the extent a congregation can be progressive while still upholding the Jewish tradition? And if so, where does one draw the line?

A common response to these sorts of questions by both clergy and members alike is that there is no clear line. However, most people at Shir Tikvah don’t sense like they’re losing tradition to progressivism or compromising Judaism for progressivism. The congregation has been very successful at striking this balance. This may be due to Jews at Shir Tikvah identifying more with the progressive values of the congregation than with the religion itself. One member of the synagogue went so far as to refer to this group as being the “new Jews,” those who are finding ways to make the actions of tikkun olam (repairing the world) grounded in the present state of things.

Even with this sentiment of being “new Jews,” Shir Tikvah is a deep religious congregation when it comes down to it.1 Although there may be more of an emphasis on inclusivity and political work than at other Jewish congregations, members of Shir Tikvah do not worry about a loss of their religion. The prayers remain the same, the Torah remains the same, and the basic Jewish concepts remain the same. Accordingly, there is a feeling that both progressivism and tradition can coexist very well in the congregation and the Jewish community as a whole.

Although there may be more of an emphasis on inclusivity and political work than at other Jewish congregations, members of Shir Tikvah do not worry about a loss of their religion. The prayers remain the same, the Torah remains the same, and the basic Jewish concepts remain the same. 

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