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We saw the Vietnam War as something false. Thousands and thousands of deaths were bad enough, but when it appeared that it was happening for reasons that were less than true, well, that was a conflict for us." It had to do with integrity. So we began to ask questions....
How could we create a more authentic religious experience? How should we connect with tradition and ritual? How would Judaism find expression in our lives and the lives of our children?
For some of us, regular religious practice was a new experience that raised these questions for the first time. For others, the questions were rooted in our repeated encounters with an institutional Jewish experience that too often seemed impersonal and pre-packaged, devoid of real meaning. But for all of us about to join together in a show of "conscientious objection" to the status quo of our religious lives, the difficult questions - and the search for their answers - became unavoidable in the autumn of 1971.
Judaism had lost its pertinence to our lives. We wanted to feel more personally connected with our religion. Judaism said we needed to be truthful, to be people of integrity. Judaism taught us that we had to come clean. We wanted Judaism to have something to say about the issues that mattered to us. There was the war in VietNam. Thousands and thousands of deaths were bad enough, but when it appeared that it was happening for reasons that were less than true, well, that was a conflict for us. It had to do with integrity.
We started small - just six families - but before long we numbered 14 couples that met on Monday nights. Something extraordinary was happening. Over several months we seemed to evolve. We came with different agendas and different backgrounds relating to Judaism. At first we never thought about religious philosophy, about money, a building, a rabbi. We simply spoke about sticking together and trying to work something out.
We read Alvin Reines' paper on polydoxy--a system of beliefs tolerant of widely varying viewpoints. "Liberty leads to diversity," he wrote. "Being free entities, congregations run the widest range of viewpoints and ritual modes." Milton Steinberg's wrote "Liberty leads to diversity. Being free entities, congregations run the widest range of viewpoints and ritual modes." And so, on a warm evening in July, 1972, we called for a vote. One minute we were sitting around a living room, and the next minute we were a congregation.