Noe Valley Voice December-January 1997-98

Jewish Prayer And Social Action Meet at The Ministry

By Loren J. Bialik

Where can you find a Jewish temple in Noe Valley? At the Ministry...of course.

Last year Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the well-known liberal-progressive magazine Tikkun, organized a new congregation called Beyt Tikkun (House of Healing and Transformation). The group started holding services at the Noe Valley Ministry Presbyterian Church, 1021 Sanchez St., in the fall of 1996.

"We chose Noe Valley," says Rabbi Lerner, "because it has a special feeling. It's a village in the midst of a city, a place open to progressive ideas.

"Beyt Tikkun is part of the Jewish renewal movement," Lerner adds. "We are attempting to return to the deepest spiritual roots of Jewish tradition and embody Jewish ethical values."

Inherent in those values is a belief that every person is responsible for healing the wounds of the world. The congregation is committed to fighting poverty, homelessness, and unemployment.

"A central tenet of Judaism is to heal the world," says Jyl Safier, coordinator of Beyt Tikkun. "Part of our religion is a belief in social justice and bringing God into the world through social action. Many of us didn't get that in our Jewish education. People come to our services and say, 'This is the Judaism I've been searching for.'"

Last month, at a typical Friday-night service, 60 people -- Jews and some non-Jews -- gathered in the Ministry sanctuary to study Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Lerner read from the Midrash, rabbinical commentaries on the Torah. Congregants asked questions and reflected in a free flow of ideas.

Sabbath services followed. Enthusiastic singing and dancing took the congregants out into the street to pray under the stars. Rabbi Lerner used melodies from both Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions of Judaism.

After services, the group shared a vegetarian potluck. Most people left after dinner, but a dozen or so stayed to study Torah and chant grace after the meal.

Lerner welcomes everyone to services, Jews and non-Jews alike. "We want to especially invite those who feel disenfranchised, including gays and lesbians, converts, and intermarried couples."

Services are held at the Noe Valley Ministry the second Friday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Because the Ministry is not handicapped-accessible, other services are held at the Jewish Community Center at 3200 California St. Services generally end with a potluck vegetarian dinner.

On Dec. 26 at 6:30 p.m., Beyt Tikkun will hold a Hanukkah party at St. Gregory's Church at 500 DeHaro St. There will be services, games, and a retelling of the Hanukkah story, for both children and adults. For a schedule of other events, contact Beyt Tikkun at 575-1200.