The Woodstock Jewish Congregation was started in 1986 by several like-minded families in the Woodstock, New York area. These families wanted a place to attend services and bring their children for a Jewish education.
Led by Jack Schechtman Gabriel, our very first service was Rosh Hashanah 5747. Under a tightly packed tent, 150 friends, family and neighbors gathered together to worship and celebrate our inauguration.
In 1988, the community engaged Rabbi Jonathan Kligler, a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Throughout the years, Rabbi Jonathan led deeply meaningful shabbat and holiday services, and helped to develop our adult and children’s education programs. High Holiday Services continued under increasingly bigger tents, attracting over 1,200 attendees from a wide radius, including New York City and nearby states. These services included a choir and a cohort of congregation musicians who filled our tent with music and voice.
In 2006, after 18 years in a small rented building, we purchased land and built our present synagogue. Our various programs continued to expand, and to this day, we continue to host large and spirit-filled High Holy Day services in the tent.
We value learning for all people, and over time, have reimagined traditional religious education and created a Family School. Our B-Mitzvah program has ushered over 200 students through experiences that matched their needs and interests.
Environmental responsibility is a core value of our community. In 2019, WJC’s actions towards sustainability were recognized by Hazon, the largest Jewish environmental organization in the United States, which awarded us the Hazon Seal of Sustainability
In March 2020, due to the pandemic, we were able to agilely move all services and classes online. The unexpected result was a widening of our geographic community. People log on from as far away as California, Israel and New Zealand. Now that we can gather again in our building, we remain dedicated to serving our online community through multi-access services and programs. In addition, the weekly lay-led programs that began with the pandemic via Zoom, continue to date. These include Shtickle Toyrah, where members present brief teachings about the parasha of the week, a Listening Circle, which is a safe place for people to share what is going on in their lives, and a Jewish themed Book Group.
In 2022, Rabbi Jonathan retired after 33 years of service. The board hired an interim rabbi, Rabbi Sarah Noyovitz, who will serve our congregation until June 2023. As an important component of the interim year, the community has gathered in small groups to clarify values, wishes, and concerns. The priorities of our community have been established, and we look forward to finding our next congregational rabbi.
Our building is located on 35 acres with walking trails, ponds, and beautiful Havdalah gardens. As mentioned above, the site includes a designated area for a tent, which is erected for High Holy Day services and other special events. We have a playground, fields, and two paved parking areas with lots of outdoor programming potential. The building contains a social hall and sanctuary, a kitchen, a library, six classrooms, and five offices. Connected to our value of sustainability, we have solar panels to increase energy efficiency.hhh
About our Community Today
Today we are a community with over 330 households and over 1,000 people on our weekly mailing list. We typically have 50 attendees at a weekly Shabbat service and had over 600 households at our High Holy Day services in 2022. We have over a half million dollar operating budget and have no mortgage or other debt associated with our organization. We have three full time and three part time staff members, not including our rabbi.
Woodstock, NY has a population of approximately 6,000. We draw our membership and attendees from a wide geographic area. Most people come from Ulster (population 182,000) and Dutchess (population 292,000) counties. Our community is both local and distant, coming from Kingston, Saugerties, New Paltz, as well as from New York City, Albany, Florida, and beyond. No matter the distance, members connect with us and one another via Zoom.