Judaism Unbound Episode 113: Embrace the Weird - Miriam Terlinchamp

Dan and Lex are joined by Miriam Terlinchamp, the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Cincinnati. In their conversation, they explore the radical re-visioning process of her congregation, which included selling their building, using the proceeds to experiment with new ways of "doing synagogue," embracing social justice as a core Jewish commitment, and investing 10% of their budget in communications, including fostering a vibrant culture of digital video production. We also discuss JustLove, a "multifaith movement provoking love and action," founded by Terlinchamp.

(0:01 - 17:42):  Terlinchamp begins the episode by telling the story of Temple Sholom, the congregation that she leads in Cincinnati. [1] She looks back at the past few years of the synagogue's history, which have included the sale of their building, a complex re-visioning process, and 10% growth of their membership multiple years in a row. Relatedly, she discusses Temple Sholom's video campaigns, [2] which have played an important role, both in helping the congregation think differently about itself, and in marketing what the congregation does to the broader world. [3]

(17:43 - 33:32): In a surprising statement, Terlinchamp, an ordained rabbi, says that she doesn't like organized religion! She explains how it is that, despite that feeling (or perhaps because of it), she has found her calling as a congregational leader. [4] She also looks back at her own life's journey, considering how it led her down the path she has walked. She names a pervasive issue in Jewish life: a lack of self-esteem, whereby congregations wonder why anyone would want to be part of them, and Jews wonder why anyone would choose to become Jewish. She then talks through the demographic shifts that have happened in her congregation, as they have re-conceptualized their vision and purpose.

(33:33 - 52:25): One of Temple Sholom's notable shifts has been its increased emphasis on justice work. [5] Terlinchamp reflects on her passion for activism, along with her congregation's staunch commitment to improving the world. She highlights why this shift has been so deeply important to her, along with some of the challenges that have arisen through it, on a psychological and congregational level. [6] To close the episode, she considers why it is often easier for many Jews to think, and to intellectualize, than it is to feel deeply.

Check out these first videos that Terlinchamp made with her congregation, calling on the community to think creatively and sell their building. Then continue below for more shownote!

[1] Learn more about Miriam Terlinchamp by clicking here. Learn more about Temple Sholom by visiting its website.

[2] We've linked to some of our favorite videos below, but see all of Temple Sholom videos at their public Vimeo channel, accessible here.

[3] Terlinchamp cites "The Way We've Always Done It Demon" video as a particularly important moment for the congregation. View it by clicking the video link on the left.

[4] For an article about transdenominational Judaism, a concept that Terlinchamp alludes to, see "Judaism is Increasingly Transdenominational -- And That's a Good Thing," by Jason Miller.

[5] Read some of Terlinchamp's written work, calling for justice, in the pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer, where she is a regular contributor. In particular, we recommend "The call for all faithful people to act as allies" and "Jail no one simply because he is poor."

[6] Terlinchamp mentions her founding of Just Love: A New Way to Belong, an initiative designed by clergy of multiple religious traditions in Cincinnati, to help people expand their reach and affect change. Follow their work on Facebook at this link.

And if you can't get enough of these videos, click below for a couple of Temple Sholom's most viral ones yet, entitled "The Little Table" and "Judaism No Longer Boring."