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About Judea Reform

 

Judea Reform Congregation is a vibrant Reform Jewish community in the Durham-Chapel Hill region of North Carolina. With over 630 households, Judea Reform builds community by engaging our members in the central aspects of Judaism.

Our members are families with young children, singles of all ages, founders of our congregation, new arrivals to the area, people who have converted, interfaith families, people from all over the world, and even people who were born and raised right here in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Our members live in Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and surrounding counties, including Chatham, Alamance, Wake, and Vance counties. We welcome people from all backgrounds, recognizing the gift of diversity and inclusion in our community.

What we all have in common is a love of Judaism and a mission to cultivate Jewish life for everyone who walks through our doors.

Our values comprise compassion and justice, tradition and innovation, welcoming the stranger and including the neighbor.

Torah teaches us that we must remember, love, and protect the stranger among us because we have been strangers, ourselves. Further, Torah teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Therefore, we stand with all those, strangers and neighbors, who are victimized based on their identities, including members of the LGBTQ community, members of the Muslim community, disabled people, refugees, people of color, women, and, of course, ourselves, as Jews.

Who we are is who God is; we will treat each other with that in mind.

Central to our social action work is a commitment to bring into practice the core social justice values of Judaism and to pursue tikkun olam — 'repairing the world'— through individual and group action. The Social Action Committee offers projects in two important areas: Tzedakah, emergency relief for the most needy members of our community, and Tzedek, social advocacy projects which address root causes of injustice, inequality and environmental distress.

We are guided by the principles of Reform Judaism, the expertise of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, and the URJ's Commission on Social Action. We also work to build relationships with other faith communities in support of our common desire to create a more peaceful, more just world. The Social Action Committee welcomes new members and invites you to share ideas, know-how, and experiences to help us deepen and broaden our social justice work.

Our worship opportunities offer meditative quiet, group song and traditional Reform Jewish liturgy. We invite you to join us at a variety of services, each helping turn our attention to the gifts of creation, each helping renew our commitment to our covenant with God, each helping mix familiar language with the opportunity to see the world in new ways, and each helping us rise from prayer better persons.

Throughout the year, Judea Reform celebrates the Jewish calendar with dedicated holiday services. From the blowing of the Shofar and waving of the lulav and etrog in the Sukkah, to cheering for the parading children at Purim and recognizing our young adults’ studies at Shavuot, we joyfully observe the many holidays and festivals of our people.

Everyone learns here: the youngest children to the oldest mavens and the rest of us in between!

Judea Reform Congregation Religious School seeks to build within each child a positive and informed sense of Jewish identity and community to help our students enjoy and understand their Jewish heritage. We offer early childhood experiences, Religious School for our Pre-K through seventh grade students, partnership with Community Midrasha for our upper grades, and many adult education opportunities.

The Adult Education Committee’s mission is to foster the Jewish education of adults in our congregation. The committee organizes a variety of learning opportunities, among them speaker series, extended courses, and study groups, led by clergy, visiting lecturers, and lay members. We have a deep interest in welcoming learners to our offerings not only for educational enrichment but also to create a sense of community.

Our Background: In 1961, a handful of local Jewish families dreamed of a Reform congregation for the Durham and Chapel Hill, NC area. They combed the telephone directories, university faculty lists and community rosters to spread the news. They held services in their basements. When the group outgrew their homes, they borrowed the Quaker Friends Meeting House. When they outgrew the Friends Meeting House, they used the Temple Baptist Church. To accommodate the many Chapel Hill congregants, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services were held in the Community Church of Chapel Hill.


By the end of the decade, nearly 100 families were involved in this community, and in 1971, Judea Reform Congregation dedicated its own synagogue on Durham's Cornwallis Road.


Today, Judea Reform Congregation is the largest Reform congregation in the Triangle. Its new home was opened in 2003, just up the hill from its original building, and includes a beautiful sanctuary, library, social hall, and administrative offices. The adjoining Education Center is the home to the vibrant and robust religious school affiliated with the Congregation.


Our talented rabbi and staff offer Jewish activities for all ages, and our dedicated lay leadership guides us with thoughtfulness and commitment. JRC operates many spiritual, cultural, and social programs throughout the year, maintains a vibrant and well-regarded Religious School to foster Jewish learning among our members’ children, promotes Adult Education programs, and has many active committees seeking to enhance our members’ Jewish experiences. Members are diverse in age, backgrounds, interests, skills, and pursuits, but that they are united in their loyalty and devotion to the JRC Congregation.


History has given us confidence to build for the future in the tradition of the founding families of Judea Reform Congregation.

Judea Reform is a member of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Judea Reform’s Holocaust Memorial Scroll

Judea Reform is honored to host Czech Memorial Torah Scroll #613—an auspicious number! As explained by the Memorial Scrolls Trust, which has loaned this scroll to our community, this is one of 1,564 scrolls formerly belonging to communities in Bohemia and Moravia (modern-day Czech Republic) which were decimated in the Shoah. In 1948, these scrolls were gathered and stored in a humid warehouse in Michle, Prague. In 1964, British donors arranged for them to be transported to Westminster Synagogue in London, and the Memorial Scrolls Trust was formed.

The Trust determined that the scrolls’ legacy would best be continued not in a museum of all the scrolls, but by loaning them out to Jewish communities worldwide. Due to their age and their harsh treatment in the previous two decades, however, almost all of them required repair before they could be loaned out for congregational use. That work continues until today at the hands of a select group of scribes.

Memorial Scroll #613 likely dates to the early eighteenth century, and hails from Moravia in the town of Hodonin, home to roughly 700 Jews before the Shoah. Congregation Bamidbar Shel Ma'alah in southern California and the Congregations of Shaare Shamayim in Philadelphia also host Memorial Scrolls from Hodonin.

According to the records of the Memorial Scrolls Trust, Judea Reform received its scroll in 1967. Sadly, due to its advanced age, fragility, and the natural deterioration of its ink and parchment, the scroll is no longer used in the Torah service every week. However, Judea Reform continues to use it for various rituals, especially Yizkor services.

Even so, the scroll lives in a display case in the lobby of our synagogue building, a silent reminder of our heritage and the many before us who revered and respected this Torah. To honor its previous custodians who perished, the scroll continues to be used in Shoah remembrance services. As Rabbi Soffer remarked on January 25, 2020, on the Shabbat preceding the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz:

Every Torah scroll has a life, which when known and made known teaches about the communities who—machazikim ba—cling to the Torah, remembering their past and loving their future enough to teach from it…

By reading this Torah, we partake in the great mitzvah of bringing Torah into Life. 

By reading this Torah, this Shabbat, we name that we, in this community, live within the great narrative of our people, which has for as long as we have lived, held on to the Torah, for our dear lives

We invite all visitors to our community to stop for a moment before this Torah and remember those who came before us.

 

Jonathan Homrighausen. Special thanks to Rabbi John Friedman, Sofer Neil Yerman, and Jeffrey Ohrenstein of the Memorial Scrolls Trust for providing information. The Holocaust Memorial Scroll is prominently displayed in the Shadowbox (display case) dedicated by The Giarla/Michelson Family.

Sat, October 24 2020 6 Cheshvan 5781