Adapted from K'hilat Tzedek : Creating a Community of Justice
There are a number of areas of congregational life to consider when evaluating the ways in which the synagogue building can support the creation of a K’hilat Tzedek, a community of justice.
The congregation’s message of welcome and inclusiveness begins at the front door and is reinforced throughout the entire building. Design solutions for architectural barriers that present challenges are abundant and obstacles can be eliminated when attention is given to how the building is entered, how the grounds are maintained and how people move around, stand, sit and interact with one another. It is the responsibility of every synagogue to be intuitively aware that there are members of our congregational family who have difficulty seeing and hearing, who can neither stand nor move about freely and unencumbered to interact with other people and whose psychological perceptions and level of comprehension may vary from the congregational norm.
The National Organization on Disability
Extensive information, guidelines and resources for religious institutions including the
publication, That All May Worship: An Interfaith Welcome to People with Disabilities.
Reform congregations have a long and valued history of integrating social action themes into every aspect of the congregational culture. Design considerations in the synagogue building that enhance and accommodate these efforts are as intrinsic as the actions themselves.
- Designating areas that accommodate the collection and distribution of food, clothing, books and supplies without obscuring hallways and common space
Providing shelter, meals and access to bathrooms for the homeless
Utilizing outdoor gardens to cultivate and grow food for the community
Selecting furniture and furnishings that are suitable in size and maintenance for multi-generational programs
There are a myriad of opportunities for congregations to model environmentally responsible behavior that can provide long-term financial savings and establish the synagogue as a center of Jewish social conscious. Think carefully about building maintenance, energy conservation, waste reduction, recycling, landscaping, purchasing, transportation, and synagogue programming and educational programs to determine if there is more that your congregation can do to promote environmental awareness.
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) provides extensive information and resources with a distinctly Jewish approach to environmental concerns.