Mission & Values
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.
We envision a Chicago and American Jewish landscape in which Torah [Jewish wisdom, text, practice, culture], Avodah [being of sacred service in community] and Gemilut Hassadim [being of service to other creatures, people and the planet] guides and inspires our lives, and we as Jews participate in bringing about a world which all people feel safe and supported to manifest their fullest selves.
Our mission is to engage, educate, empower and inspire people through dynamic experiences of Jewish prayer, music, learning, social activism and community building. Whether in person or online, through music or Talmud or powerful conversations, whether in services or social events, Mishkan is reimagining and reinvigorating the next generation of Judaism in Chicago and beyond.
Our Core Values:
“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.
“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.
“Karov Yah l’kol korav– God is close to anyone who 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.
“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 in our community involved in the work of social change, Mishkan is constantly working toward greater social justice, locally, nationally and globally.
“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 achievements, and a desire to work toward fulfillment of its founding ideals as described in its Declaration of Independence: to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; to safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and to be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” We are committed to creating space in person and online where grace, generosity of spirit and respect guide our conversations about Israel/Palestine, and believe that hearing and honoring diverse viewpoints makes our community stronger.