Synagogues: Reimagined

March 3, 2015

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 


Many American Jews – third and fourth generation immigrants – carry within them the distant echo of their parents’ and grandparents’ Judaism. They know that there are stories to tell but can’t remember the major plot lines let alone the sacred details. They know that there was a Jewish song that guided and propelled, that healed and held for many generations, but they have no idea how to access the memory of that song. Our grandparents and great-grandparents came to Ellis Island clutching sacred books, memories, recipes and traditions. Their children tossed them overboard to become American, go to drive-ins and play baseball. But now many of us, uber-American, find ourselves wondering if there may have been anything in those forgotten books that could help us navigate life’s most challenging questions.


My sense is that there are three, core definitional characteristics that must form the foundation of vibrant Jewish organizations and institutions, especially synagogues, in the years ahead: authenticity, creativity and moral courage. All of these are grounded in Jewish text and tradition and all are a response to the discontinuity and spiritual disorientation that defines the Jewish landscape today.


The failure of institutional Jewish life to capture the imagination of young Jews today is irrefutable but not immutable. We have the ability to bridge the disconnect between the needs and interests of young Jews and the organized Jewish world – from synagogues to Federations. I believe that the greatest response to disaffection of a generation of Jews is to reclaim the power and the fire of our tradition, to find a way to think creatively about the future and take risks and to remind ourselves of a profound an unrelenting truth: We who have been blessed with a legacy of moral courage must find our courage anew. We must work together – through acts of love and kindness, justice and courage – to turn the tide of history.


Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founding rabbi of IKAR, a spiritual community dedicated to reanimating Jewish life through soulful religious practice that is rooted in a deep commitment to social justice.


Read this entire article at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Apr. 15, 2015