In the days of declining affiliation, it’s rare that a new congregation forms. After all, it’s quite the daunting task to find a space, come up with a dues structure, write a value statement, find clergy and maintain an active, involved base of members.
But within the last year Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebel and founding Rabbi Ariana Katz have done just that. The new congregation is the subject of this week’s cover story by Connor Graham.
Katz, in 100 coffee meetings she had prior to the congregation’s founding, asked the very same questions Connor did when reporting this story — did Baltimore, with all of its renowned organizations and synagogues, need another congregation? What was missing? Who were the Jews who hadn’t found a spiritual home?
As it turns out, Hinenu’s self-described “radical inclusivity” — engaging all members of the faith community from LGBTQ to interfaith couples — and its social justice centered-Judaism was just the right combination for some local Jews. That is not to say there isn’t a bevy of Baltimore congregations that emphasize inclusivity and take part in social justice activities. But for congregant Tyler Vile, hearing Katz discuss death and bereavement through the lenses of Judaism and a queer identity on her podcast “Kaddish” really resonated.
“I’m Jewish. I’m queer. I’m trans. I’m very, very left-wing. Who am I going to get together with? Who are my Jews?” Vile asked rhetorically. “Hinenu answered [those questions].”
With a clear mission and dedicated core, Hinenu has formed five committees and is actively working on a value statement. We will continue to follow their progress as they find their footing.
In other news, the Jewish community around the country has paid tribute to the late U.S. Sen. John McCain as a legislator who crossed partisan lines and was a friend of Israel. In addition to reporting the heartfelt tributes by Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, Susan C. Ingram spoke with Baltimore philanthropist Frank Storch, who had a chance encounter with McCain at Nationals Park last year.
And sadly, a shooting that took place at a video game tournament in Florida last weekend was perpetrated by a Baltimore man with a Jewish father. As Jesse Bernstein reports, David Katz killed two players in a tournament he was eliminated from and wounded many others before turning the gun on himself. Jesse brings you the latest on the incident as of press time.
To better days ahead!