East Lansing's Congregation Shaarey Zedek
East Lansing's Congregation Shaarey Zedek

CSZ has about 220 member units of all ages and backgrounds.

East Lansing’s Congregation Shaarey Zedek (CSZ) strives to provide a center in the Greater Lansing area where people can learn, pray, celebrate simchahs and comfort each other in times of need while offering a varied program of education, cultural and social events.

CSZ was formed in 1918. In the 1930s, a merger between the Reform Shaarey Zedek and a fledgling Reform congregation called Temple Beth El took place. CSZ’s present building, completed in 1969, sits on a 10-acre parcel of land in East Lansing.

Rabbi Amy Bigman
Rabbi Amy Bigman

At one point in CSZ’s history, they belonged to both the Reform and Conservative movements. For many years now, they’ve singularly belonged to the Reform movement. CSZ, though, still offers both a monthly Saturday morning Shabbat service and a second-day Rosh Hashanah service in the Conservative style. 

Rabbi Amy Bigman became the rabbi of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in July 2007.

Bigman, who founded the Interfaith Clergy Association of Greater Lansing, takes pride in doing a lot of interfaith work in the Greater Lansing community.

“I do a lot of that work and try to get my congregation to go out into the community and do programs as well,” Bigman said. 

Bigman speaks at many houses of worship in the community and welcomes visitors from houses of worship, colleges and schools to the temple. Bigman enjoys meeting and partnering with these various groups as they learn about Judaism and CSZ.

Rabbi Bigman at an interfaith event.
Rabbi Bigman at an interfaith event.

Cantor Pamela Schiffer served as cantor of CSZ for 18 years, retiring in June 2017. She happily remains part of the congregation as Cantor Emerita.

Rabbi Bigman and the congregation’s administrator, Patty Warshaw, are the two full-time staff members. CSZ’s Director of Congregational Lifelong Learning Margot B. Valles is on staff on a part-time basis.

CSZ’s Religious School serves about 75 or so students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade from the Greater Lansing area and beyond.

The congregation offers a wide array of programs and services to its diverse congregant base. 

During the pandemic, CSZ started a Racial Justice Task Force, which Bigman says has been bringing in interesting speakers and panels educating the congregation about issues in the community and country.

CSZ’s Adult Education offers a yearly Introduction to Judaism course, a periodic Adult Beginning Hebrew course, a Lunch ’n Learn Adult Education series, various adult education classes and programs such as “Women in Judaism,” and a monthly Torah Study as part of its monthly Conservative Shabbat worship. 

CSZ’s annual Adult Purim program: Rabbi Bigman, Director of Congregational Lifelong Learning Margot B. Valles and Administrator Patty Warshaw.
CSZ’s annual Adult Purim program: Rabbi Bigman, Director of Congregational Lifelong Learning Margot B. Valles and Administrator Patty Warshaw.

CSZ’s Tzedakah Committee makes donations from the Rabbi Morton & Aviva Hoffman Tzedakah Fund to local food banks and children and family services charities, as well as sponsoring CSZ’s annual High Holy Days Food & Toiletries Drive and Winter Clothing Drive. 

CSZ’s Sisterhood helps raise funds and promote the education of congregational youth. CSZ also partners with the other congregation in the community, Reconstructionist synagogue Kehillat Israel, for programs and services. 

CSZ has about 220 member units of all ages and backgrounds: some members who were born and raised in the area, many Detroit-transplants and some from all over the state and country with many associated with Michigan State University and the state government.

The Ark at CSZ.
The Ark at CSZ.

“It’s a small community, but I think partially because we’re smaller, we’re each other’s family,” Bigman said. “My immediate family doesn’t live in Michigan anymore, so the people here are the people I have seder with when I’m not doing a seder at the temple. I think if people want to, people can become each other’s family. We try to become each other’s family.” 

To learn more about East Lansing’s CSZ, visit shaareyzedek.com or call (517) 351-3570.

Watch “Ask the Rabbi” with Rabbi Amy Bigman

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