Six households created Congregation Dorshei Tzedek (CDT) during the summer of 1991. The founders were committed to establishing a Jewish congregation committed to Reconstructionist principles and philosophy.
The founders envisioned a welcoming, participatory and inclusive community with a rabbi, strong lay leadership, a religious school, lifelong education, Shabbat and holiday services, and lifecycle observances. They chose the name “Dorshei Tzedek” which means “seekers of justice.”
To create Congregation Dorshei Tzedek’s first High Holy Day services, each founding household contributed $500 for initial funding. Services were held at Brandeis University’s Sacher Auditorium. We bought a modest number of High Holy Day prayer books and engaged Rabbi Mordechai Liebling to help us lead services. We advertised in the Jewish Advocate, local Newton newspapers, and on community bulletin boards and held our breath!
To our amazement, services were a great success. We were able to pay all our bills, make an appropriate contribution to Brandeis Hillel, and even had a little left over. More important, several families joined us right after the holidays. We applied for membership in the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and were accepted at their next board meeting.
Over the next two years we started to hold regular Shabbat services, celebrated holidays, and organized a Board. We knew we needed to grow and to do that we needed a rabbi and a religious school.
For the first few years, Temple Emanuel in Newton graciously allowed our children to enroll in their religious school. By our third year as a congregation, we were able to start our own Religious School, starting with a Gan-Aleph (K-1) class and adding another grade each year until we had a full Gan-Zayin school.
Rabbi Liebling, at that time the Executive Director of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, continued to serve as our High Holy Day rabbi. As our congregation grew to almost 30 households, he advised us to hire a student rabbi for one Shabbat weekend per month plus High Holy Days. Rabbi Linda Potemken served our congregation for the last three years of her rabbinic schooling, from 1994 until 1997.
With a regular rabbinic presence, our membership grew steadily, and by the time Rabbi Potemken graduated we had reached 60 households. At that point, we were able to raise enough money to guarantee a half-time salary for two years. We were incredibly fortunate to bring Rabbi Toba Spitzer to Boston. Since Rabbi Spitzer’s arrival in 1997, we have grown to over 170 households.
For several years we held High Holy Day services at the Solomon Schecter School in Newton and in 2007 at the Gann Academy in Waltham.
Our religious school, adult education and holiday programs, and especially our commitment to tikkun olam, continue to grow thanks to Rabbi Spitzer’s guidance and our dedicated membership.