The World’s First and Only Universalist Synagogue

The World’s First and Only Universalist Synagogue August 25, 2023

The World's First and Only Universalist Synagogue Created by Rebecca Keene with Bing Image creator
The World’s First and Only Universalist Synagogue

We were supposed to continue the Women In The Bible series today, but instead, we are blessed to have an interview with Rabbi Steven Blane, Rabbi of Sim Shalom synagogue. Sim Shalom is the world’s first and only Universalist synagogue.  Please stay tuned for the continuation of the Women In The Bible series next week.  Click here to sign up for the newsletter and be alerted when new articles are published.

The World’s First and Only Universalist Synagogue

Rabbi Blane:

Hi Rebecca. Thanks for the opportunity.

Rebecca: Thank you, Rabbi. Firstly, Sim Shalom is the world’s first and only Universalist Synagogue. How Is Universalist different than Reform? What was the purpose behind starting a Universalist Synagogue?

Rabbi Blane: “To me, Universalism isn’t just a religious tenet; it’s a guiding principle that suggests every soul has a path to the Divine. While Reform Judaism has long championed a more inclusive approach to Jewish traditions, at Sim Shalom, our Universalist stance allows us to be even more embracing, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background, feels a profound connection to the Jewish faith. At Sim Shalom, we’ve embraced the online format to create a space that offers a progressive and inclusive interpretation of Judaism. ”

Rebecca: Sim Shalom has both male and female Rabbis, which I believe is amazingly beautiful. Can you speak about why that is important?

Rabbi Blane: Well, actually that is not a cutting-edge practice. The Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructist Movements have long embraced that concept.


Rebecca: However, Sim Shalom has its own affiliated school, JSLI which ordains Rabbis and Cantors and Sim Shalom offers a course of study towards Jewish conversion. Can you tell us about that?

Rabbi Blane: “Certainly! At Sim Shalom, we take immense pride in our affiliation with JSLI, the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute. JSLI is more than just a school – it’s a platform that empowers aspiring Rabbis and Cantors, equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and spirit they need to lead Jewish communities. Our curriculum is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition while also being open to contemporary insights and interpretations, making it perfect for today’s diverse Jewish landscape. Additionally, Sim Shalom offers a robust course of study for those seeking conversion to Judaism. We understand that the journey to Judaism is deeply personal and profound. Our conversion program is tailored to guide and support individuals at every step, ensuring they build a strong, heartfelt connection to our faith. It’s all about making Judaism accessible and meaningful to all, irrespective of their starting point.”

Rebecca: Therefore, are people who convert or become ordained in the Universalist denomination recognized by the wider Jewish faith?

Rabbi Blane: Non-Jews who convert via our program are Jewish. Individual denominations each have their own requirements.

Community at The World’s First and Only Universalist Synagogue

Rebecca: As a regular at Sim Shalom, I love the love and acceptance of all people at Sim Shalom and the pure joy that comes out of each service. Therefore, I would like to ask you: What do you enjoy most about Sim Shalom?

Rabbi Blane: “At Sim Shalom, what I cherish the most is the sense of community and connection. Despite being an online platform, the warmth, engagement, and bond we share are as palpable as any physical synagogue. It’s heartwarming to see individuals from diverse backgrounds and geographies come together to celebrate, learn, and grow in their Jewish journey. Moreover, the flexibility and accessibility of Sim Shalom enable us to reach individuals who might not have access to, or feel at home in, traditional settings. Every service, every class, every interaction reaffirms my belief in the transformative power of inclusive and progressive Judaism. That, to me, is the essence and joy of Sim Shalom.”

Rebecca: How many “members” does Sim Shalom currently serve?

Rabbi Blane: We regularly see between 50-75 people for Friday night Services. Usually, hundreds participate in some way in our High Holiday Services.

Virtual Synagogue

Rebecca: Does Sim Shalom have a physical synagogue or physical meetings? If so where?

Rabbi Blane: We were built 13 years ago to be online. We were visionary in that regard- in fact, we were the second congregation in the world to embrace that format. We also hold High Holiday Services in a physical location- currently at The Bitter End and Silvana in New York City. Tickets are available here.

Rebecca: Is the plan to build physical synagogues in the future?

Rabbi Blane: No. That being said, if someone wants us to lead Services from a magnificent House of Worship, please be in touch!

Rebecca: Also, is there a plan for other Universalist synagogues in the future?

Rabbi Blane: We already have an association of affiliated JU (Jewish Universalist) Rabbis and Communities. See

How To Attend The World’s First and Only Universalist Synagogue

Rebecca: Where can someone go if they wish to attend a Sim Shalom service?

Rabbi Blane: See Sim

Rebecca: Where can someone go to sign up for conversion or rabbinical classes?

Rabbi Blane: See the Conversion page. 

Rabbi Blane’s Music

Rebecca: Finally, I know you do private music gigs. Can you tell us about your music and where a person can purchase your music?

“Music has always been an integral part of my soul, a bridge that connects me to spirituality and humanity alike. My music encompasses a range of genres, intertwining the soulful melodies of liturgical tunes with the contemporary nuances of jazz, pop, and more. The themes often revolve around love, faith, and life’s profound journeys, aiming to strike a chord with listeners and evoke introspection and emotion. If you’re interested in exploring my musical endeavors, my albums and tracks are available on popular streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. You can also visit my official website for more details and a schedule of my upcoming gigs. I’m deeply grateful for the support and love from those who resonate with my music, and I hope it brings a touch of joy, reflection, and solace to every listener.”

Rebecca: Firstly, Thank you Rabbi Blane for the time and effort you took to answer these questions about the world’s first and only universalist Synagogue. Sim Shalom has become like a home to me over the past five years. I am one of those people you mentioned who would not have access to a Synagogue without this platform, as I live in Eastern KY.  Therefore, I am grateful for everything you do and have done to build this community. For, I have found love, acceptance, and a Jewish family at Sim Shalom. Hopefully, this article will help many others do the same. I am proud to attend the world’s first and only universalist synagogue online. Therefore, I invite everyone to join us for tonight’s Shabbat service at 6:30 PM EST.

About Rebecca Keene
The author, Rebecca Keene, has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Religion. She graduated from the University of Pikeville as Religion Honor Student in 2014. Currently, she is studying for a MA in Women, Gender, Spirituality, and Social Justice at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Also, Rebecca is the author of FAITH UNDER THE RAINBOW: RECLAIMING THE TRUTH ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE BIBLE.  In addition, she founded and independently runs the social media community, Reclaiming the Truth.  Therefore, you should visit Rebecca's author page and purchase her books at: Amazon Author Page or: Publication Page Rebecca is currently in her 3rd year of Kabbalah study. She is ordained to perform LGBT weddings and is certified in Hypnotherapy. Rebecca lives in Kentucky with her two adult children. She practices Non-Denominational Judaism. She is passionate about social justice and fiercely advocates for the marginalized in society and religion.  When not with her children or writing, Rebecca enjoys spending time in nature, with G-d, or in a good book.  She also enjoys making and selling art which you can find at Art by Rebecca. Author, Rebecca Keene,  is always happy to hear from readers. You may contact her through the Reclaiming the Truth page on Facebook, or you can email Rebecca will try to answer all correspondence, but please be patient, as life is busy for us all. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives