The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation is delighted to welcome Temple Israel of Duluth, MN, as its newest member community, and the third Reconstructionist-affiliated congregation in Minnesota. With the spirited leadership of Rabbi Amy Bernstein, the 200-household congregation is excited about joining the Reconstructionist Movement.
Rabbi Shawn Zevit, JRF’s Director of Outreach and Tikkun Olam, who helped facilitate the affiliation process, said, “It is wonderful to welcome Temple Israel into our network of Reconstructionist member communities. We have been in dialogue for a few years together, and there was clearly interest in our approach to Jewish life, in no small part because of the inspirational spirit of Rabbi Amy Bernstein.
In our experience at JRF, communities that really commit to the educational process of affiliation in an open and involved way across the congregation or havurah, are transformed by that process in terms of the clarity and vision of their shared mission. Temple Israel spent the better part of last year working with us and internally to study Reconstructionism, involving the entire community in their decision-making process. This is Jewish values-based decision-making and democratic, participatory process—hallmarks of Reconstructionist Judaism at its best.”
Rabbi Bernstein, a 1997 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, has been Temple Israel’s rabbi for 10 years. “For me, it’s been very interesting to watch the congregation develop and see the Shabbat morning minyan shaped and informed by Reconstructionism. Our movement is answering a genuine need of Jews today and I am excited about the potential,” Bernstein said.
Temple Israel’s president, Michael Rosenzweig, expressed his enthusiasm for the new relationship. “We’re very excited to be a part of the Reconstructionist Movement and all that it has to offer us,” he said.
Temple Israel’s roots go back to the late 1800s. Jewish settlers arrived in the Duluth area as early as 1850. In 1885, the first Reform congregation was incorporated and by 1915 there was one Reform congregation, four Orthodox congregations, and the forerunner of what was to become a Conservative congregation in Duluth. In 1951, a Jewish Community Center was built to serve the social, cultural, and educational needs of the area. At its peak the Jewish population of the area numbered 3,000-3,500 people—now there are approximately 800-900 Jews in the Duluth area. With the decrease in population, the Reform and Conservative congregations merged in 1971 and created Temple Israel. Temple Israel is the only liberal congregation in Duluth. The congregation (which is also affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism) completed a year-long process towards a majority vote on applying for dual affiliation with JRF last December.
Members of Temple Israel play an active role in the community at large and Rabbi Bernstein serves as a link between the Jewish community and Duluth/Northeastern Minnesota. The congregation has a vibrant religious school, which has seen its enrollment grow in recent years, as well as an active havurah membership. Currently, six groups of 10-25 persons each meet regularly to provide extended families for congregants who came from other areas and to help meet the social and intellectual needs of a wide range of Jewish residents.
We know that Temple Israel will add to the dynamism of our movement, and look forward to sharing more about them with our kehillah.