Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions

Joan Dickstein Story

Joan Dickstein’s Story (Written for the Dedication Weekend, Sept. 15, 1995)


The philosophy of Mordecai Kaplan and Reconstructionism had considerable impact upon me, and Ben (z”l) and we joined Or Hadash in 1986. I have brought with me my lifelong list of unresolved questions about the definition and reality of God, the meaning or worth of repetitive prayer, and how to juxtapose the concepts of faith and logic in the general schema of life philosophy for humankind….Membership in Or Hadash has acted upon some of my basic questions and concerns in unexpected ways.


In 1987, I learned enough Hebrew to become an adult Bat Mitzvah. The preparation and the ritual experience itself made me feel that I was now an authentic Jew…


Our closest connection to Or Hadash is in the Saturday morning minyan. There, in that blessed time, I don my kipah, wrap my tallit around my shoulders and Ben and I reach across the centuries of time simply to experience and to exalt the ancient and modern prescriptives for life’s mysteries.


Leo Tolstoy wrote of a dream in which he is suspended between infinity above and an abyss below. He is not dangling, but firmly supported by – something. In his dreams, he touches himself and feels there is a single cord coming from his body connected to a large pillar …I resonate with part of Tolstoy’s experience, for I, too, feel the support, the cord and the pillar…The cord and the pillar are clear realities for me. The pillar is the towering Jewish tradition – and the cord, the cord that binds me and links me to the tower of that tradition; that cord I call…Or Hadash.