T'chiyah means "renaissance" in Hebrew. Congregation T'chiyah was founded in 1977 in the City of Detroit and was part of the Renaissance of the urban center. The group was formed from a chavurah (circle of friends), which met monthly in members' homes. Early on we rented space in the St. Mary's Community Center located in Greektown near the site of the first Jewish religious services in Detroit.
When the havurah learned that the city was going to tear down the building that had once been Mogain Abraham and was known as the Farnsworth Street Shul they decided to save the contents. Although the building had been used as a Baptist church for decades some of its contents still reflected its Jewish origin.
In May 1996, the congregation left the St. Mary's site and met briefly in the Wayne State University area before settling into its next meeting place, the Royal Oak Woman's Club on Fourth and Pleasant Streets (the oldest building in Royal Oak). On June 13, 2004, we moved into our beautiful new home: The David and Miriam Mondry Building in Oak Park on the JCC campus.
For the first years of T'chiyah's history, we were led by our own membership. As our congregation grew in size we were joined by visiting rabbis, rabbinical students and scholars. Student rabbis over the years have included Toba Spitzer, Michael Cohen, Amber Powers, Steve Gutow, Murray Silberman, Jordi Gendra, and Donna Kirschbaum. We have been fortunate to welcome into our kehillah (community) such notable guest rabbis as Rabbi David Teutsch, Rabbi Daniel Brenner, Rabbi Debrah Cohen, Rabbi Mordechai Leibling, and Rabbi Steve Gutow.
On August 1, 2008, Rabbi Jason Miller became our first rabbi. Rabbi Miller, a native of the Metro Detroit Jewish community, brought new programming and more learning opportunities to our congregational family. Our Shabbat services, which are both spiritual and reflective, are a shared endeavor between our rabbi and our membership.
In the summer of 2012, we engaged a long-time national Reconstructionist leader, Rabbi Shawn Zevit, as our visiting rabbi for the 2012-13 year. It was a memorable year in which Rabbi Zevit's monthly visits inspired the congregation with Shabbat and holiday services, special events, Tikkun Olam and social justice activities, learning opportunities, and much more.
During the 2013-2014 year, our services were lay led. After an extensive search, we were thrilled to hire Rabbi Alana Alpert. She and her partner Justin moved to Detroit during the summer of 2014, and together - through Rabbi Alana's spiritual leadership and Justin's compelling Jewish educational offerings - they have made a tremendous, transformative impact on this community.
Since Rabbi Alana's arrival in 2014, T'chiyah's membership has nearly tripled in size and attracted a cadre of enthusiastic millennials and new families from diverse backgrounds into our ranks. Rabbi Alana's services are a beloved feature of her spiritual leadership: she facilitates a holistic experience of spirituality - incorporating music, meditation and poetry - while constantly striving to be accessible to various levels of Jewish literacy. Chief among Rabbi Alana's impactful interventions at T'chiyah is the development and rapid growth of Detroit Jews for Justice, the community organizing initiative that grew from Rabbi Alana's hire and T'chiyah's desire to become the social justice shul in Metro Detroit. The exciting synergy between DJJ and T'chiyah has served as a pathway for many Metro Detroit Jews to delve into justice work, spiritual practice and Jewish identity, and is consistently listed as a strength in congregational evaluations.
In 2017, T'chiyah and the Reconstructionist Congregation of Detroit (a Detroit-based congregation that was the result of a schism within T'chiyah) engaged in a "Year of Togetherness" to join together for Shabbat and holiday services, educational opportunities and more. As a result, a service schedule was developed that includes two Shabbats a month in the city of Detroit and two in the suburbs. T'chiyah proudly reports that there has been a service every week - at the very least, as an opportunity for those in need to say Kaddish - since its inception. This year also marked T'chiyah's unanimous Board decision to abolish membership dues, in favor of a "give from the heart" model.
In June of 2018, thanks to a generous grant from the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation, T'chiyah hired social worker Jake Ehrlich as T'chiyah's Community Engagement Associate. His grant-funded position seeks to tend to the diverse needs of our thoroughly intergenerational congregation, to bolster T'chiyah's musicality, to assist Rabbi Alana in providing pastoral care, and to help T'chiyah actualize the vision of its congregants as we move into an exciting new era of growth and possibility!