Membership. The Word Makes Me Cringe.

Membership. The word makes me cringe.

Growing up, I went to Hebrew school for one year. Third Grade. My mother went back to school to begin her studies for nursing, and Heather Stein’s mom picked me up from school on Wednesdays. Her carpool went to Temple Sinai in Cedarhurst, so I did, too, and I was enrolled in Hebrew School. I remember spending the year sitting in the back of the class with Heather and this cute boy LJ, and feeling really proud that I had 100% average in our Hebrew tests. The next year, my mom didn’t need the carpool, and I wanted to take more tap dance classes. I never was a bat mitzvah (http://www.rebarproject.org/radical-reinventionb/2015/6/1/un-bat-mitzvah-by-rabbi-lori-shapiro).

Years later, I wonder what belonging might have meant had my parents joined. I know that my life outside of ritual was a lonely one. Looking back, I vividly recall singing with the cantor, the Purim carnival, the lithe and bushy-haired rabbi introducing us to the prayer space, learning stories from the book of Genesis and a seedling of curiosity taking root for something I had no idea existed. I had ancestors? Something came before me? What did this mean?

Since then, I learned that my parents did not renew my Hebrew school because they didn’t want to pay membership. In creating Open Temple, our model is to be Open and Inclusive – no one will ever be turned away because of lack of funds. However, what we are providing for people needs to be supported in order to be sustainable.

What we are calling “Co-Creator”ship is akin to membership in that we are, in the words of Mordecai Kaplan, are creating a sacred space of “Belonging.” However, in general, synagogue membership has gone out of fashion. In fact, this eJewish Philanthropy article is a reminder of what works and what doesn’t: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/scrapping-synagogue-dues-a-case-study/

Following this model of voluntary membership and transparent need, Open Temple will NEVER turn anyone away. We are just asking that our Co-Creators (that is you, the participant), become a part of supporting our future. And in that, we hope that you will offer your annual tax-deductible donation, as what we are building – in its unique, spirited, inclusive, fun and relevant re-enchanting way – is a part not only Venice’s future, but Judaism’s.

Join us.

Rabbi Lori Shapiro and the Open Temple Board of Directors

A History of Membership

The dollar bill is the most actively used ritual object in the US, imbued with hidden messages from founding US institutions (https://www.philadelphiafed.org/education/teachers/publications/symbols-on-american-money), and even its controversial “In God We Trust” statement, the dollar bill is the way that we, as individuals, record and quantify our values. On the Shabbat following Rosh HaShanah, dollar bills were distributed at Open Temple. The community was invited to write a statement of intention for what they want to manifest in the year ahead on them, and then were given a link to track that dollar bill’s journey in the world.

Open Temple’s core values of Love, Creativity and Truth lay a foundation for the fundamental tenants we build upon. As we continue to “build out” our vision for a lasting institution in Venice, we hold fast to the core values of not only our own community, but timeless Torah values as well. Membership originates in the Torah (see Exodus 30 and 35, Leviticus 19, and Deuteronomy 14, 24 and 26 on tithing), and continued as a part of the rabbinic conversation for millennia. As we enter the early mid-21st Century, membership is on the wan; yet, the need to commune with one another in real time has never been more desperate.

We will be inviting you, our community, to join Open Temple in a way that is sustainable for you, your family and your adopted community. By tithing to our community, you elevate your awareness of what “belonging” means and enter into an ancient and sacred covenant. Like your grandparents, or your great-great-great-great-great grandparents, you are saying “Judaism is a core value that needs a place in my life today as well as in the collective future of our people.” Open Temple is building a legacy institution for the 21st Century. With you. Our goal is to build a self-sustaining community that will be here for your children’s future.

In full transparency, here is where your dollars will go. Feel free to reach out to our Treasurer (treasurer@opentemple.org) if you have any questions.

One-Dollar-Rabbi

We Unplugged So Hard (Open Temple Style)

This year Open Temple collaborated again with Reboot to bring our community (and beyond) a magical night of Unplugging. The lineup in the theatre was amazing, featuring improv, music and spoken word, and there was also zine making, letter writing, typing (old school manual), face painting and more.

Big thanks to Zach Puchtel for his spoken word workshop, to Boise Thomas for hosting, to improv acts Deep Squeeze and The Murge, to Who Can Sleep for their songs, to Rachel Kann, Sarah Klegman and Cheryl Fidelman for their stories, and to Kent Jenkins and Friends for their wildly interactive music. And for the giant custom coloring project, thank you to artist  Christopher Noxon. And for the fabulous zine-making table, Eileen Levinson (and beau). 

And (of course) we couldn’t have done it without our stellar volunteers–Brandon Barney, Sarah Bonner, Rina Cohen, Dalia Golchan, Danielle Rose Kanizo, Natalia Pollock, Julia Thompson, Eric Well, and Brianna Ziegler.

All electronic devices were checked at the door, but we took some stealth photos for you to enjoy–

IMG_6437.jpg small

IMG_6101.jpg small

IMG_6108a.jpg small

IMG_6152.jpg small

IMG_6117a.jpg small

IMG_6411.jpg small

Thanksgiving at Israel Levin Center

Thanksgiving with your Bubbe. Not happening this year? We found our own! A group from Open Temple paired up with NuRoots and Jewish Federation at Israel Levin Center to make sure that all Bubbes got their Turkey love. We were smoking in our hairnets and plastic aprons, a call back to the hairnet that so many of these Bubbes remembered fondly, as we dished out pumpkin pie, turkey and cranberry sauce. Nom Nom, Eat, Eat!  

Volunteering at Israel Levin Center

Volunteering at Israel Levin Center

Express Yourself

On election night, it became clear to Rabbi Lori that Open Temple would provide a safe space for those confused or lost by results to let it out and express themselves. The word was quickly spread over email and social media, and the next evening, 25 souls sat in a circle in the darkness of the Electric Lodge theater.

The evening opened with a healing song and drum circle led by Music Director Brock Pollock, and was followed with words from anyone who wanted to contribute in the circle. Rabbi Laura Geller, Temple Emanuel Rabbi Emerita and adviser to Open Temple, shared some of her own words: “My hope and expectation was that we would be celebrating a different kind of broken glass, the breaking of a glass ceiling, and instead it evoked Kristallnacht.” Rabbi Lori noted connections to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.

Many people spoke in the darkness over the next two hours, and stayed after to embrace. “Express Yourself” was profiled in The Jewish Journal alongside other reactions to the election from Los Angeles Jews.

Dunking in an Ocean Mikveh for High Holidays

Venice Pier, October 10th, 2016

The night before Kol Nidre, fifteen Open Templers met at the Venice Pier for “The Dunk,” the 5th event in our sequence of the “High Holiday Venice Experience” this 5777. Participants of all ages followed Rabbi Lori down to the beach, circling up for their directions to disrobe (clothing optional) and immerse themselves into the Pacific Ocean as an alternative form of mikveh before Yom Kippur began.

Ryan Torok profiled the event in The Jewish Journal’s Moving and Shaking column:

“This is the original mikveh,” Open Temple Rabbi Lori Shapiro said while still wrapped in a towel after emerging from the ocean on Oct. 10. “The bathhouse is something that is an innovation of society. The mikveh, in its essence, is mayim hayim — living waters.”

After dunking for several minutes, the sound of the Shofar called everyone back to shore, rejuvenated, and cleansed from the icy waters.