In 1982, a small group of young families, feminists, gays, and lesbians were in quest of a welcoming place to practice inclusive Judaism. In early 1980s America, this was indeed a grand quest. We had heard about Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, one of the first women to be ordained and a pioneer in nonsexist, ecologically responsible Jewish peace culture. So, we invited her to Albuquerque, and a journey of transformational Judaism began.
We named our congregation Nahalat Shalom, Inheritance of Peace, and Rabbi Gottlieb became our founding Rabbi. As a Jewish Renewal congregation, we share a commitment to a holistic and creative transformation of Jewish liturgy and law, one that engages body, mind and spirit while valuing diversity and honoring each individual's spiritual journey.
As our small assembly grew, we became a congregation of schleppers – we rented churches, community centers, and parks for services. And we schlepped.
Within the greater Albuquerque Jewish community, Congregation Nahalat Shalom was known as Congregation Nonchalant Shalom, but when we decided we wanted a permanent space, our focus and intent were relentless. In 2000, we bought outright an old Baptist church in the heart of Albuquerque's historic North Valley. Thus began another transformation, this one on a very material plane. Today, the 22-member Klezmer band performs where the old baptismal stood and fruit trees have replaced asphalt (and a local theater troupe is the grateful recipient of hundreds of choir robes and pews).
Over the years, we have given rise to an awesome Klezmer Band, a Rosh Hodesh Circle, a Jewish Muslim Dialogue group, an eco-Kashrut collective, a thriving religious school, and many other efforts exploring Jewish spirituality.
Our journey continues.