Have questions about Mishkan, who we are and what we do? We’ve got answers!

What is Mishkan?
Mishkan is a non-denominational (or post-denominational), independent spiritual Jewish community. We blend traditional Jewish rituals, holidays and wisdom with a casual and progressive ethic by building a core community around services, holiday experiences, classes & workshops, kids & family programs, lifecycle services and neighborhood based community gatherings.
What denomination is Mishkan?
Mishkan is a non-denominational (or post-denominational) independent community. Our Rabbi and founder, Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann, was ordained within the Conservative movement. So much of our liturgy is reflective of that background, while embodying a playful and flexible spirit that many associate with more liberal forms of Judaism and a spirituality that takes its ecstatic and meditative ethos from Chasidism. We use the independent siddur, Eit Ratzon.
Why doesn’t Mishkan have a building?

Ever since our first service in 2011 in a home in Lincoln Park, Mishkan has been living out a modern version of what the ancient Mishkan did in the Torah: creating holy space wherever it was, and in particular, in neighborhoods where there aren’t accessible opportunities to engage Jewishly. We initially did not have a building because we were a small, start-up community that met in living rooms, artists’ studios, solariums, on the lake. As we have grown, our lack of a building has evolved into a strategic and philosophical choice with financial and mission-level implications. Part of Mishkan’s mission is to make Jewish life accessible to people who would consider themselves to be on the fringes of Jewish life for any reason — demographically, spiritually, financially, and also geographically. Holding our prayer services and holiday celebrations in places around Chicago allows us to make good on that part of our mission (think Hanukkah in an arcade bar in Logan Square, or Shavu’ote at Catalyst Ranch in the West Loop), while investing more of our limited financial resources in our staff and programs (rather than the hefty overhead associated with operating our own facility).

How does membership work at Mishkan?

Inspired by the Torah’s description of the Mishkan (portable sanctuary), which was created with the creativity and donations of each member of the community according to their unique ability and skill, we offer Buildership in lieu of a traditional membership model. Buildership allows people to make annual or regular monthly contributions to Mishkan on a sliding scale. The name we have chosen reflects the fact that those who are committed to supporting Mishkan through regular financial contributions play a critical role in building this community by providing a significant amount of the general operating funds we rely on to do our day-to-day work – everything from the salaries of our amazing staff to the cost of putting on Shabbat, holidays, classes, hosting workshops, speakers, and the rising cost of our office and workshop space in Ravenswood.

We recognize that regular financial contributions are not within reach for all, and participation at Mishkan is not restricted to those who are able to be financial Builders. We welcome and value the presence of every person who comes to a Mishkan event or program, makes a connection with one of our staff or Rabbis, or simply follows our progress on social media, and consider them members of the Mishkan community as well. Please be in touch with our Director of Development to talk about how to make Buildership work for you.
Why do I have to be a member of the community for a Mishkan Rabbi to officiate my lifecycle (wedding, BMitzvah, bris, etc)?

A membership in an organization helps subsidize the cost of things the organization does for which it charges less than cost (which is basically everything Mishkan does as a Jewish engagement organization). Builders literally make it possible for the community to exist and for our Rabbis to be available to perform lifecycle services. If the cost of Buildership is a hardship for you, please be in touch with our Director of Development who is happy to work with you to find a mutually workable arrangement.

What is the dress code for services and holidays?
Whatever makes you feel good. Seriously. We just want you to be comfortably you. For visual reference, check out some images from our Holiday experiences this year.
Is Mishkan only for young adults?

It’s true that our entire staff is under 40 and that our reputation is “young.” While the average age of most synagogues is 70, ours is 30, however our community members span a wide range of age demographics (including families and people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s…). We hope you think this is as awesome as we do.

I’m new here, how do I get involved?

We’re so glad you asked! Write to Amy Nadal, our amazing Development and Engagement Associate, to set up a 1:1 meeting. You are also welcome to come to Shabbat services any time and meet our staff. Either way, email Amy and introduce yourself.

Support inspired, down-to-earth Judaism in Chicago

The Torah describes a giving process to build the Mishkan based on peoples’ openness of heart. By giving, you create the future.