You stand this day, all of you, before your God—your tribal heads, your elders, and your officials, every householder, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water-drawer—to enter into the covenant of your God, which your God is establishing with you this day…
-Devarim 29:9-11, Parashat Nitzavim
At Judaism’s core is the belief that we are linked as a people in a covenantal relationship with God, and as individuals in a covenantal relationship with one another. Being a member of B’nai Jeshurun (BJ) means being part of this broader Jewish covenant. It also offers us the opportunity to build and sustain our community and its shared values by declaring them, and by entering into a Covenant that reflects who we are and aspire to be.
We declare that these are the values that the B’nai Jeshurun community believes in—and that we will strive to fulfill every day:
Hesed: Caring Connections and Relationships. We believe the foundation of community is connection and relationships. We must build and tend to those relationships, and care for one another.
Honor. We strive to honor the dignity and divine spark of all human beings.
Ometz: Courage. We aspire to be spiritually and communally courageous.
Ahrayut v’ Areyvut Hadadit: Responsibility and Interdependence. We are interconnected and interdependent with all life. We must take seriously our responsibility for the earth and its inhabitants, and to pursue a just and peaceful world.
Omek Ruhani: Spiritual Depth. We are a community firmly committed to Jewish tradition, spiritual innovation, and intentional religious practice. We draw deep from the well of our tradition and wide from the global Jewish community to engage in meaningful and evolving prayer, ritual, and learning.
Avodah: Service. We give of ourselves to co-create and sustain this community, both when it is easy and convenient and when it is not.
The notion of covenant and mutual obligation is one that is deeply counter-cultural to our world, which so often privileges the individual over the needs and health of the collective. It is our hope that this Community Covenant will help us live in Judaism’s charge to push against this dominant culture in order to create a more just and caring community, and a more just and caring society overall.
We know that proclaiming this list of values is only the beginning of the process of living them. In the pages that follow, we offer concrete examples of some of the ways we can realize these values, fulfilling the promises we make in this declaration.
Hesed – Caring Connections and Relationships
- Extending a warm embrace to all who enter our physical or virtual doors.
- Introducing ourselves to people we don’t already know, making an effort to approach people in a different age/demographic group from ourselves.
- Greeting and getting to know the BJ staff.
- Offering support during difficult times—even to members we do not personally know.
- Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by requesting support during times of illness, loss, or other challenges that life presents us with.
- Participating in committees and activities through which we care for other members of the BJ community.
- Opening our homes, as we are able, to host other BJ members for meals and events.
Kavod – Honor
- Treating all members of the BJ community—congregants and staff alike—with respect in our speech and our actions.
- Celebrating the many ways in which our community is diverse, and intentionally working to make BJ a place of belonging for all.
- Valuing all members of our community for who they uniquely are, and for the distinct contribution each individual makes to our collective.
- Giving others the benefit of the doubt if they are behaving in a way that seems inappropriate, and speaking to them with respect and compassion.
- Cleaning up after ourselves (and family members, if relevant) in BJ facilities, and not assuming that “the staff” will take care of it.
Ometz – Courage
- Engaging challenging issues and conversations, and taking risks to work for a better world.
- Confronting and wrestling with challenges presented by our own sacred texts and liturgy.
- Learning from all with humility and curiosity.
Ahrayut v’ Areyvut Hadadit – Responsibility and Interdependence
- Participating in committees and activities through which we act to alleviate suffering and pursue justice, both locally and universally.
- Engaging in the concerns of the wider Jewish world, in Israel and around the globe.
- Prioritizing stewardship and protection of our planet in our consumer choices and institutional operations.
- Recycling and composting at BJ events—taking the time to learn where to dispose of what, and encouraging others to do the same.
- Stretching ourselves in our learning and self-reflection so that we can better live out this value (e.g., political education, anti-racism work).
Omek Ruhani – Spiritual Depth
- Seeking ways to make personal and communal prayer meaningful.
- Participating in the study of Torah and lifelong Jewish learning.
- Marking lifecycle moments in community.
- Bringing intention and presence to celebrating the cycle of the Jewish calendar.
- Stretching ourselves in our Jewish learning and practice (e.g., taking a class, taking on a new mitzvah, committing to attend minyan).
Avodah – Service
- Showing up and participating in Shabbat, holidays, and the life of the community.
- Being present for one another’s joys and sorrows.
- Bringing our talents and expertise to strengthen B’nai Jeshurun.
- Modeling engagement and participation for the children of our community as a way of teaching the next generation.
- Taking seriously our responsibility to support BJ financially to the best of our ability, by giving as generously as we can and by paying balances on time.
With gratitude to the BJ members who served as Covenant Readers:
Martha Ackelsberg, Ted Berger, Sari Bovitz, Caren Caplan, Nilda Dicker, Ken Druker, Ruthie Fierberg, Michael Geller, Valerie Gerstein, Linda Golding, Lindsay Jacobs, Les Judd, Jessie Kalbfeld, Julie Kowitz Margolies, Paula Kramer Weiss, Jill Lebwohl, Mark Lehrman, Michael Leopold, Ellen Metzger, Christie Moore, Judith Plaskow, David Rhode, Beth Siegel, Leah Silver, Ronda Small, Judith Trachtenberg, Gayle Waxenberg, Ira Wolfman, and Cheri Zeldis