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Shir Tikvah Congregation, Minneapolis

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Color photograph of Shir Tikvah Synagogue.

The front façade of Shir Tikvah Synagogue on the former site of the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis.

Shir Tikvah is a Reform congregation located in south Minneapolis. It was founded in 1988 after a dispute at St. Paul's Mount Zion Temple over the homosexuality of Associate Rabbi Stacy Offner. Offner resigned from Mount Zion in February 1988. She was the first woman rabbi in Minnesota.

A small group of Offner's supporters met soon after she resigned. They wanted to form a new congregation open to all Jewish lifestyles. More than two hundred people attended the first informational meeting.

The forty-family congregation held its first Shabbat (Sabbath) service in May 1988 at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center. Rabbi Offner was formally hired in August. By year's end the congregation had eighty families. It took the name Shir Tikvah (Song of Hope).

David Harris was hired in July 1989 as music director. Harris had served as soloist for Shir Tikvah's first High Holiday services in the fall of 1988. The congregation's membership reached 120 households by the end of 1989.

Shir Tikvah voted in 1990 to join the Reform movement. Two other choices considered were to be an independent congregation or join the Reconstructionist movement of American Judaism. The congregation went with the larger Reform movement to give children the chance to take part in regional and national youth groups.

At the time of its founding, Shir Tikvah members agreed that decisions would be made democratically. The congregation also agreed to accept all Jewish lifestyles and family types with no discrimination based on gender, marital status, race, age, or sexual orientation. Shir Tikvah was the first Twin Cities synagogue to perform same-sex wedding blessings on its altar. The congregation also has had a strong social action committee.

After five years, the congregation outgrew the St. Paul Jewish Community Center. Shir Tikvah bought a former Universalist church building in 1994 near Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. This remains its home.

In 2008, Rabbi Offner became vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism in New York City. Before Offner left, Shir Tikvah named her founding rabbi emerita. The congregation hired Twin Cities native Michael Adam Latz as its second permanent rabbi in 2010. In 2012, the congregation had more than 400 households.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
  • Bibliography
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Bergman, Andrea Klein. "Shir Tikvah: Reshaping Reform Judaism Through Inclusivity from 1988 to the Present." History Senior Thesis, St. Catherine University, 2009.
Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Schloff, Linda Mack. "Who Knew?: Stories Unearthed from the Archives." Upper Midwest Jewish History: The Journal of the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest 6 (Fall 2011): 105–107.
http://www.jhsum.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Who-Knew.pdf

Shir Tikvah congregation.
http://shirtikvah.net/

Strickler, Jeff. "Offner continues trailblazing ways." Star Tribune, June 13, 2008.
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/19913134.html?source=error

Related Images

Color photograph of Shir Tikvah Synagogue.
Color photograph of Shir Tikvah Synagogue.
Color photograph of Shir Tikvah Synagogue.
Color photograph of Shir Tikvah Synagogue.
Color photograph of Rabbi Stacy Offner.
Color photograph of Rabbi Stacy Offner.
Color photograph of Rabbi Stacy Offner with a congregant of Shir Tikvah Synagogue.
Color photograph of Rabbi Stacy Offner with a congregant of Shir Tikvah Synagogue.

Turning Point

Shir Tikvah is founded in 1988 by former members of St. Paul's Mount Zion Temple who left due to a congregational dispute over Rabbi Stacy Offner's homosexuality. Shir Tikvah hires Rabbi Offner as its founding rabbi.

Chronology

February, 1988

Rabbi Stacy Offner resigns from her position as associate rabbi of Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul, the result of a congregational dispute over her homosexuality.

May, 1988

Shir Tikvah is formed by members from Mount Zion who resigned in support of Rabbi Offner. Services are held at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center.

August, 1988

Rabbi Offner is hired to lead the forty-family congregation.

1989

Shir Tikvah adopts a mission statement that voices support for all gay, lesbian, and transgendered people and embraces the diversity of varying Jewish lifestyles. Same-sex wedding blessings are performed on the altar.

1994

The congregation purchases former Universalist church building and moves to Minneapolis.

2008

Rabbi Offner accepts a position as vice-president of the national Reform organization Union for Reform Judaism.