Challenged by Rabbi Holzman in his 5779 Kol Nidre sermon, NVHC is embarking on a variety of projects that seek to help us rebuild our democracy, from creating a space for open and honest conversation, to inviting engaging and relevant speakers, to action. We do this in covenant with one another – by asking questions, by sharing viewpoints, and by saying “shamati” – I have heard you. We will do this both as individuals and as a community. Together, as a Jewish community, we work to demonstrate that we can begin to overcome the polarization that has taken hold of our country.

Click here to read NVHC’s Brit for Community Dialogue.

Scroll down to view the latest events in our Rebuilding Democracy Project and click the links below to read articles about the Project.

Click the image to learn more about the American Scripture Project Pilot.

The Rebuilding Democracy Project was awarded the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom in March, 2019. Click the image above to learn more about our application and the prize!

A Case Study in Polarization, Faith and the Common Good

In 2021 Members of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation (NVHC) in Reston, VA, led by Rabbi Michael G.Holzman, partnered with the Aspen Institute to develop a case study based on The Rebuilding Democracy Project. The purpose was to bring specific, meaningful aspects of their religious traditions to bear on the polarizing and emotional conversations of American political life. The case study created includes the strategies they use in their programs, along with actionable methods readers can apply to their own communities. At the end of each program description, congregants offer testimony to how the programs have affected them personally; a powerful and important witness to the effectiveness of the approach.

NVHC applied these traditions of debate and scriptural analysis to their Project. The Project was designed to help them navigate community decisions and intergenerational misunderstandings, and even to grapple with systemic racism. Developed piecemeal over the last five years, some of the Project’s programs were developed to address a particular situation, while others take the form of informal conversations focused simply on relationship-building.
Although NVHC grounds its work in Jewish prayer, Torah study, and Jewish liturgical traditions, their methods can be adapted to many other faith traditions, communities, and situations. These programs are not intended to win one faction over to the other. Rather, they serve to strengthen and deepen relationships and community ties.

Project Components

Community Organizing

  • Building relationships

  • Teaching what is “politics”

  • Taking democratic action

Teaching and Learning

  • Connecting Jewish wisdom to democracy’s fundamentals

  • Addressing bewilderment with Jewish experience in the wilderness

  • Elevating cynicism and despair as spiritual issues

Congregational Conversation

  • Putting chesed above party

  • Hearing ideas fully (shamati)

  • Experiencing viewpoint diversity (eilu v’eilu)

Great Texts of America

  • Experiencing diversity in community (kehillah)

  • Sanctifying the process with blessing

  • Teaching mahloket l’shem shamayim

  • Using parshanut to address complex narratives

  • Connecting personal aspiration to the text through midrashic process