When we think about Jewish community our minds usually zero in on a location where community meets- a synagogue, a JCC. But what if community were defined by common values instead- by the relentless pursuit of the holy and the just, and that in gathering around that pursuit anywhere at all, we establish a sacred community? This description gets at the heart of Mishkan.
The ancient Mishkan traveled with the Israelites through the desert and brought God’s presence into its midst whenever and wherever the people would set it up and bring the best of themselves– their hearts, their talents and treasures– to the project. Likewise, brought together by our belief that through music, prayer, study and tikkun (repair) we transform ourselves and the world, Mishkan began convening in unconventional spaces- yoga and art studios, living rooms, spiritual centers, backyards, and yes, synagogues, too- wherever people were gathered in holy intention. Even as we’ve settled into two consistent spaces (at the Bodhi Spiritual Center and Anshe Emet Synagogue, as well as our new space on Ravenswood), we continue to meet for classes and personal meetings in locations across the city. We partner with other community groups to further the holy work of spreading inspiration and love.
We’ll admit it: the Mishkan an unconventional kind of community, a cross-community community, designed to enhance the Jewish landscape in Chicago and create a new way in. We hope you find what you’re looking for.
Our Core Values:
These values lie at the center of our work and animate everything we do.
Inspiration. “Yehi Or- Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). The first and most important purpose of our existence on earth, the Torah describes, is to create light. Mishkan strives to create an environment where each person can be moved, inspired, learn something, be challenged, taken on a journey, and brought to a higher emotional, spiritual, intellectual and moral place. Every event includes elements of Torah study, music and meaningful social encounter that build a greater sense of enlightenment, broadly construed, and every Shabbat and holiday event has something that participants can take home for further study. We aim to generate, stoke and spread light.
Self-expression. “Ahalelah Yah b’hayai– I will praise The Source with my life” (Psalm 146). Practicing a living spiritual tradition means animating the words, forms and rituals created by our ancestors with each person’s own life experiences, passions, talents, loves. Too many religious experiences feel like we leave our real selves at the door when we walk in. At Mishkan we create containers for real self-expression through music, text, meditation, breath, and through creating a space that is comfortable enough for us to laugh, cry, dance, sing out, be silent, pray… whatever is real for each person. This is a safe space to be one’s self.
Radical Accessibility. “Karov Yah l’kol korav– God is close to anyone to calls out” (Psalm 145). Any person regardless of background is welcome and invited to find meaning, inspiration and community at Mishkan. The ancient Mishkan in the desert brought together the Israelites from across the spectrum of the community, and so do we: young, young-at-heart, total novices alongside people with different skills and abilities, LGBTQ Jews, people in interfaith relationships, Jews-by-Choice, from all denominational backgrounds, people who aren’t Jewish. We believe everyone’s birthright is to connect in this way. We facilitate deep connection with Torah and Jewish prayer by providing transliteration guides, by explaining rituals and translating Hebrew, even having community members sign at times when there’s a non-hearing person in the room. We will always do our best to accommodate unique needs, whether for disability access, allergies, or other individual circumstances, to make participation at Mishkan more accessible for all.
Healing/Tikkun. “L’taken Olam b’malkhut Shaddai– To repair the world according to God’s vision” (Siddur). We believe that to make religion matter, we must take the energy and inspiration we derive from our spiritual practice out to a world that desperately needs more light, more justice, more goodness, and more peace. Working with local community organizing groups, service agencies, and taking inspiration from the many people n our community involved in the work of social chance, Mishkan is constantly working toward greater social justice, locally, nationally and globally.
Yisrael/Israel “Ki m’tzion tetze Torah/Because wisdom emanates from Zion” (Michah 4:2). The love and longing for the land of Israel has been a central spiritual value for Jews since the first call to Abraham. Mishkan recognizes our unique role as a Jewish spiritual community in the diaspora to create an environment where everyone can explore their own authentic, informed, and personal relationship with Israel– the historic land, the Biblical ideal, the diverse global people, and the modern State that brings all these complex dimensions into a vital contemporary reality. We approach the State of Israel with love and amazement at its extraordinary achievements and a desire to work toward fulfillment of its founding ideals.
Mishkan is a space where people from a wide spectrum of views on Israel are active, vocal members of the community. We believe that a diverse tapestry of opinions strengthens the fabric of our community and are committed to genuinely engaging with views that may diverge from our own, and navigating all our conversations with grace and respect.