Over the Years
1960 - 1980
In 1959, a small group of like-minded and spiritually connected individuals and families, interested in following the teachings of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan formed a chavurah. They met in each other’s homes, storefronts, churches, and local schools. Next, a religious school was established to meet the needs of the families, and the first Bar and Bat Mitzvahs were celebrated. The chavurah elected their first president in 1964 and in 1966 the first woman president was elected. The chavurah formally incorporated in 1968 and joined the growing Reconstructionist Judaism movement. This chavurah officially became known as the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC). JRC hired our first spiritual leader, Rabbi Arnie Rachlis in 1975 and Riki Lippitz was hired as a cantorial soloist.
1980 - 2000
JRC has always been an egalitarian and participatory congregation. Members came together to lead services, provide educational opportunities, sing in the choir, and perform in Purim spiels. By 1985, the congregation had grown from 60 to over 200 households. On the 20th Anniversary of our founding, JRC purchased the building at 303 Dodge Avenue in Evanston. Our library was established, and an Early Childhood Center was created. Lori Lippitz was hired as our cantorial soloist in 1987 and two years later, Heavy Shtetl, JRC’s own Klezmer band, was formed. Rabbi Roy Furman led us as our interim rabbi and in 1993, Rabbi Richard Hirsh was installed, as JRC’s second rabbi. Five years later Rabbi Brant Rosen and Cantor Anita Schubert were welcomed to JRC.
2000 - 2020
The past 20 years have exemplified JRC’s commitment to living our Jewish values. Tikkun Olam Task Forces were and continue to be created to respond to member initiatives and interests. JRC members participated in service and educational trips to Uganda, Rwanda, Israel/Palestine, New Orleans, and Montgomery. The National Organization on Disability (NOD) recognized JRC for its work in eliminating barriers and becoming an Accessible Congregation. In 2005, JRC began participating in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade. In 2008, JRC became the first house of worship in the world to be awarded Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status.
Howard Friedland was hired as our cantor in 2001. Bob Applebaum’s Erev Shabbat Jazz Service and Billy Kaplan’s Shabbat Sweet became bi-annual traditions. JRC Press released four additional member-created books. Our Holocaust Memorial Torah, from Czechoslovakia was installed in the sanctuary lobby in 2013. Together with interim Rabbi Don Rossoff, in 2015, congregants created our Covenant of Speech. In 2016, Rabbi Rachel Weiss returned to Evanston and was installed as our rabbi. JRC welcomed Rabbi David Eber as our Assistant Rabbi for Education and leader of our religious school.
2021 and Beyond
Looking Toward Our Future
JRC continues to be a daring and innovative congregation; deeply rooted in Reconstructionist beliefs as well as a willingness to adapt and meet the changes in society and culture.
Our members represent the entire spectrum of the Jewish community. While many of our congregants were raised in Jewish homes, a significant number of others have come to Judaism later in life or are part of interfaith families. People of all sexual orientations, gender identities, economic situations, and individuals with disabilities have found JRC a welcoming and inclusive home.
We look forward to you being a part of our history.