Temple Micah has always been a special place, which has often meant being different from other Reform congregations. What makes us special is hard to put into words, but the elements of our history may shed light on some of our distinctiveness.
Born in the 1960s, we are congenitally egalitarian. From the beginning we tried to treat all members as equals. Thus we never singled out wealthy or influential members by erecting plaques to honor large (or small) donors. Gender has never mattered, so we’ve never had a Sisterhood or Brotherhood—anybody can, and is encouraged to, take part in all activities regardless of traditional roles. Kol Isha (A Woman’s Voice) is a study group that includes men among its participants. Some of our best cooks are men while some women, who excel at carpentry and plumbing, are leaders in Sukkot in Spring, a Jewish housing rehab program for low-income homeowners.
Shelley Grossman talks about what Micah means to her
We started off as a very “do it yourself” congregation…Even thoough we are now much larger and “professionalized”, we still are still a sort of DIY to some extent and that has encouraged the maintenance of this community. In 1996, when my first husband died, the whole congregation just enveloped me. It’s what communities are for and why Micah continues to be a community.
For many years, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we did it ourselves: parents and other adults taught in the religious school; members worked in the office; the newsletter and then the website were the products of members; members made and baked the oneg snacks, and much adult education was lay led. Our growth and maturation as an institution has caused professionalization in many areas but members still write and edit The Vine newsletter, provide food for the onegs, and generate and lead study groups among other things.
Susie Blumenthal talks about what Micah means to her
I don’t think you could find a group of more committed Jews and just so kind-hearted and giving in almost every way…They’re more than just congregants, they’re a community!
For many years we didn’t have our own building and took ecumenical pride in sharing a facility with an Episcopal church. We outgrew that arrangement, built our own building and now delight in our beautiful home on Wisconsin Avenue, NW, in the District (designed by members who are architects).
Larry Cooley, Previous President, Discusses Our Culture
A lot of our members are journalists and political activists – they want to be active participants…Our self-deprecating humor is a good antidote to “look at us, we’re special”.
Jodi Enda, Past President on What Drew Her to Micah
For me, Temple Micah is really unique…Our members come up with great ideas…Rabbi Zemel makes us think about the big picture of Judaism
We are creative. At first it might have been out of necessity, now it just comes naturally. We figure out our own way to make things work—and when they don’t, we try something else. Probably, the best example is religious education. We did away with traditional religious school and fashioned Machon Micah (Micah Institute), our life-long congregational learning system.
Rachel Gross, Executive Director,talks about the Micah Way.
Every synagogue has its own personality. When I first read the Micah web site, I learned there were no funding plaques – that spoke worlds about the synagogue and is unique in the synagogue world. One of the things that makes Micah unique is the flexibility for members and volunteers to create what they want to see – I think about the Wise Aging group for example.
And, we value a sense of humor and try not to take ourselves seriously.
All along the way, our rabbis have championed The Micah Way and made it possible.
Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel, our senior rabbi, summed up our vision:
- We know that we value both having fun and being very serious about our Judaism (but not ourselves).
- We are both messy and learned.
- We are committed to tradition, but experimentation is part of our DNA.
- We are rooted in our past, but restless in our search.
- We have a firm commitment to an egalitarian approach to everything we do.