Our Jewish Community

Although the greater Lansing area has a relatively small Jewish community, residents have access to many active and vibrant resources. Being small is not such a big problem; we all work just a little harder at enhancing our Jewish community life. In addition to the Greater Lansing Jewish Welfare Federation, the Lansing area is the home of two synagogues, a Hillel Student Center, Michigan State University, a major university that supports a Jewish Studies program that hosts events open to the community, a chapter of Hadassah, and a Chabad House.

Our synagogues host many religious and cultural events throughout the year, supplemented by events sponsored and/or hosted by Hillel and the MSU Jewish Studies Program. Hadassah and Chabad also sponsor periodic social, cultural, and educational events open to community members. The GLJWF is a frequent supporter of many of the special programs sponsored by these organizations.

Links to the Web sites of these organizations can be found on our home page. Below is a capsule summary of the typical programs available, as provided by the respective organizations.

MSU Hillel

MSU Hillel is a dynamic organization fully integrated into campus life. Hillel serves as the community center for Jewish life on campus and works to create a pluralistic, welcoming and inclusive environment. Hillel brings Jewish life to students—wherever and whenever they gather. Jewish values are integrated into students' day-to-day lives through programs, services, and initiatives that take place throughout campus, as well as in the new Hillel building. The Lester and Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center, dedicated in October 2002, provides a central location for Jewish life at MSU. In addition, Hillel offers over 200 programs each year including weekly Shabbat services and dinners, holiday celebrations, Israel programming and advocacy, leadership training, community service activities, two "Birthright Israel" trips each year, and several alternative spring-break trips where students can fulfill the Jewish imperative of tikkun olam. Hillel seeks to inspire every Jewish student to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life.

Kehillat Israel Synagogue

In accordance with the tradition of hospitality going back to Abraham and Sarah, Kehillat Israel strives to be a kehillah mekabelet, a welcoming and inclusive congregation. KI welcomes Jews from every walk of life, including those with disabilities, from different races, from non-traditional and interfaith families, as well as people from all sexual orientations and gender identities. KI welcome anyone who wants to participate in their synagogue community. All services, including High Holidays, are open to everyone who wishes to attend. KI is affiliated with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, and Shabbat services are held weekly on Saturday morning. The services employ Siddur Sim Shalom (Conservative) and Kol Haneshemah (Reconstructionist) prayer books on alternate weeks.

Located in Lansing, KI sponsors varied social, cultural, religious, and educational programs throughout the year, including many special events associated with the Jewish holidays and the calendar cycle. It sponsors a full supplementary religious school program serving grades pre-school through seventh grade. Post-b'nai mitzvah students participate in many activities. There is an active lifelong-learning program with study sessions following many Shabbat services as well as on other days.

Congregation Shaarey Zedek

Congregation Shaarey Zedek, located in East Lansing, is a caring and involved community where members are nurtured in the heritage of Judaism. SZ provides for the spiritual needs of Jewish families and individuals by conducting services using both Siddur Hadash (Traditional) and the Gates of Prayer (Reform) siddurim; the Conservative service is held on Saturday mornings and the Reform service is held weekly on Friday evenings and periodically on Saturday mornings as well. SZ is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism.

SZ strives to provide a center in the Greater Lansing area where its members can learn, pray, celebrate simchot and comfort each other in times of need. It offers a rich and varied program of education, cultural, and social events while reaching out to the Greater Lansing community on a perpetual basis to strengthen interfaith ties. The religious school offers classes for pre-school grades through post-b'nai mitzvah confirmation classes. The synagogue hosts a weekly community-wide Torah study group attended by members of both synagogues as well as non-affiliated participants.

MSU Jewish Studies Program

In addition to formal curricular programs, including Jewish Studies classes in eight departments and four colleges, an undergraduate specialization in Jewish Studies, and opportunities to study abroad in Israel, MSU’s Jewish Studies program offers an active annual calendar of public events on Jewish themes and issues. The key emphases are American Jewish life and culture, Israeli life and culture, Yiddishkeit, the Holocaust, Jewish contributions to film, Jewish art, music, and literature, modern Israel, the Israeli-Arab-Palestinian conflict, modern Jewish public affairs, the diversity of the Jewish diaspora, and more.

The Jewish Studies Program sponsors an annual MSU Israeli film festival and the Michael and Elaine Serling Lecture about modern Israel, and also organizes MSU’s annual Holocaust memorial, the David and Sarah Rabin Holocaust Lecture, as well as the annual Stanley and Selma Hollander Lecture on Jewish art and music. The program’s newsletters provide a calendar of speakers, colloquia, film showings, panels, brown bags, performances, and exhibits. The program participates annually as a sponsor in the Detroit Jewish Book Fair and is currently partnering with the Holocaust Memorial Center near Detroit on a lecture series on “New Directions in Study of the Holocaust."

Hadassah, Lansing Chapter

Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, is a volunteer women's organization, whose members are motivated and inspired to strengthen their partnership with Israel, ensure Jewish continuity, and realize their potential as a dynamic force in American society. Committed to the centrality of Israel based on the renaissance of the Jewish people in its historic homeland, Hadassah promotes the unity of the Jewish people. In Israel, Hadassah initiates and supports pace-setting health care, education and youth institutions, and land development to meet the country's changing needs. Locally, members participate in many events organized by the chapter, which include a book club, Chanukah party, educational meetings, and periodic social events.

Chabad House of Greater Lansing

The Chabad House organization is founded on the principle that, while Jews embrace many levels of observance in their personal lives, there should be a place for all Jews—no labels, no affiliations—to develop a sense of community, to enhance the experience of being Jewish, to learn and have fun. The Chabad House is just that place. By focusing on the individual's relationship to Judaism, the Chabad House appeals to all segments of the Jewish community. By offering a wide range of activities for adults, children, and the whole family, the Chabad House follows many paths to enrich Jewish life in the community. Chabad House, located in East Lansing, assists the local Jewish university student community by hosting Friday evening Shabbat dinners; conducting Shabbat and holiday services and celebrations; offering classes on Jewish topics, contemporary affairs, and social issues; and sponsoring social and cultural events, many of which are open to the entire community. Chabad also assists the Jewish community by providing a mikvah and facilitating the operation of Camp Gan Israel, a summer day camp for community Jewish youth.

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