Archive for April, 2006

What’s your Jewish volume?

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

[UPDATE (June 22, 2007): In search of a cool summer full of meaningful Jewish experiences, Rabbi Judy Chessin of Temple Beth Or in Dayton, OH, notes that when you turn up your Jewish volume, you get your heir-conditioning at full blast….]  

As of today, I’ve decided to stop using the words affiliated and unaffiliated as general descriptors. In a world of multiple and episodic connections, they just don’t mean anything anymore.

Instead of asking whether someone is affiliated or unaffiliated, I propose to ask what his/her “Jewish volume” is. Conceptually I link the notion of “volume” to the idea of “minimalist” and “maximalist” manifestations of religion (see Bruce Lincoln, Holy Terrors: Thinking About Religion after September 11 (2002). The idea is that if your Jewish volume is high, then Judaism really is a significant part of many aspects of your life; if your Jewish volume is low, then it isn’t. Midrange volume could mean that Judaism either is a small part of many aspects of your life, or a large part of one or two aspects. In other words, it’s not the either-or proposition that “affiliated-unaffiliated” suggests.

More importantly, you can turn the volume up or down at different points without shutting the system down completely. Life-cycle, significant personal or historical events (planned or unplanned), and other factors can affect Jewish volume. Not to mention the reality that people change the station/change the tune — all the time, again without turning off the radio entirely.

An an “outreach” invitation, as such, isn’t some futile quest to transform an “unaffiliated” Jew into an “affiliated” one. It’s an invitation — “Turn up your Jewish volume!”, perhaps, or “What’s your Jewish tune?”. (This has the happy the advantage of riffing on the iPod phenom, too.)

Here’s how I would apply it to myself. At the moment, on a scale of 1 to 10, my Jewish volume is somewhere between 11 and 12. When I was 13, it was around 9; it dropped to about 3 while I was in college, and was between 4 and 5 for most of my 20s.

So …what’s your Jewish volume?

Dov & Dwight in Seattle: the official Jconnect announcement

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Jconnect is an initiative aimed at “building Jewish community for post-college young adults in Seattle.” It “offer[s] regular weekly classes for Jewish young adults to enrich their minds and bodies. These courses are planned based on the interests of our participants and designed to be engaging, convenient and affordable.”

Here is the official listing for Dov and Dwight’s emerging conversation in Seattle, entitled “Seeking Common Ground”:

A Conversation with a Rabbi and a Pastor On Religious Identity and Belief in a Pluralistic World

Taught by Rabbi Dov Gartenberg and Pastor Dwight Friesen

Tue May 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 from 7:30 pm to 9 pm at Hillel

$25 per person for 5 sessions – SIGN UP NOW!

Our first Jconnect Seattle class specifically reaching out to Jewish and Christian young adult participants, this new course will offer a unique opportunity for interfaith discussion on religious identity and faith in a world of diverse choices and religious contentiousness. Does my religious identity or lack thereof help or deter my relationship with others in a diverse society? Does a sense of religious choseness make sense in our times? What is religious conversion in pluralistic world? What does it mean to affirm your faith tradition in a world of multiple ‘truths"? This course will use dialogue, text, and film to spur discussion as we attempt to answer some of these emerging questions about the future of religious life. Do you have a Christian or Jewish friend who might be interested in this class? Email them a link to this description.

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg is the founder and rabbi of Panim Hadashot-New Faces of Judaism, a pluralistic education and outreach organization which has received national attention for its innovative approaches. Dov is a Conservative Rabbi with a strong background in comparative religions.

Pastor Dwight Friesen is a local Christian theologian and leader of the emergent Christianity movement.

Challenging synagogue attendance numbers from Gallup

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

The Jerusalem Post reports the “US Jews [are] uninterested in shul”:

Jews ranked second to last on the table of weekly worship attendance with less than one in six attending services, beating out only those who report no religious affiliation.

“This is a statistical cri de coeur from our people,” Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles told The Jerusalem Post. “If things continue as they are we will produce a generation of Jews who will be irretrievably lost.”
In a series of interviews conducted from 2002 to 2005, Gallup interviewed 11,000 adult Americans and asked, “How often do you attend church or synagogue – at least once a week, almost every week, about once a month, seldom, or never?”
Approximately 44 percent reported attending worship services weekly or almost weekly, the April 14 report stated.

…[Rabbi Gary P.] Zola noted that what the survey highlighted was the historic problem that synagogues were “not functioning in a way that is bringing in increasing numbers of American Jews that belong to the synagogue on a regular basis.”

Wolpe was less sanguine. “Judaism requires a countercultural commitment,” he argued. “If Jews do not develop a major, unshakeable passion for Jewish life and learning, observance will dwindle, as this study demonstrates. The results are a spiritual and cultural tragedy for the Jewish people and for America.”

However decline was not inevitable, Wolpe argued. “At Sinai Temple we have instituted services that draw 1,000 people on a Shabbat morning and once a month, over 1,000 young people to Friday Night Live. It is through a combination of education, music and passionate preaching and teaching. There is no single, successful formula, but the best Jewish minds of our generation need support and aid in reversing this crisis,” he said.

The bottom line is this: either S3K is an exercise in futility or we’re doing exactly what needs to be done. S3K knows that across the country there are synagogues like Sinai Temple, whose Friday Night Live service was co-created by S3K Leadership Network member Craig Taubman, and like the vital mainline Protestant churches in Dr. Diana Butler Bass’s Practicing Congregations project, which not only are not declining, but indeed are thriving. The trick is figuring out what these congregations are doing right and then learning how to translate and adapt those best practices for other synagogues to adopt. It’s not easy, and we won’t always get it right, but as Rabbi Wolpe noted, it’s the ballgame.

JTS Chancellor-elect Arnold Eisen on synagogues, research & leadership

Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

From The Jewish Week of New York:

One goal will be to “re-energize the synagogues,” which Eisen noted “have nowhere to go but up,” in part because “we are wasting our laity and there is no [sense of] community.” Eisen wants to engage lay members by creating a dialogue between their areas of professional expertise and the Torah, to show that “the things Jews do” are relevant to Jewish law and values.

…One “lifelong concern” he has is “making Israel more important to American Jewry,” he said. Another is “to inspire Jewish leadership.”

Noting that he envisions making JTS into a combination of Hebrew University and the Hartman Institute, a Jerusalem think tank of sorts based on religious pluralism, Eisen said he hopes to involve JTS" “first-class faculty” in using the seminary for both “pure scholarship and applied scholarship, and what I call sponsored research” to tackle problems in Jewish life.

Dwight & Dov’s emerging conversation in Seattle

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

Emerging Church theologian Dwight Friesen — the man who invented the term “orthoparadox” — has just posted the news of an incredible course he’ll be teaching with S3K Emergent Working Group member Rabbi Dov Gartenberg:

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg and I met through Synagogue 3000, he and I will be team teaching a Hillel Foundation class in May at University of Washington and Panim Hadashot sponsored by JConnect.  We titled our class: Seeking Common Ground: A Conversation with a Rabbi and a Pastor On Religious Identity and Belief in a Pluralistic World.

It’s a rare opportunity for young Christians and Jews to engage in conversation about religious identity and faith in a world of diverse choices and religious contentiousness.

Our themes will be:

Does my religious identity or lack thereof help or deter my relationship with others in a diverse society?
Beyond God on my side: Does a sense of religious choseness make sense in our times? (Post-evangelical, post-insular Judaism)
What is religious conversion in pluralistic world?
What does it mean to affirm your faith tradition in a world of multiple ‘truths""?
Can secular and religious people find common ground?

The Synagogue Marketing Debate

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Much debate (Brooklyn Jews, Canonist, DovBear, Jewschool, Mere Rhetoric, etc.) in the Jewish blogosphere around today’s New York Times article about synagogue outreach (an article which mentions S3K).

For what it’s worth — and it’s quite important to us — S3K’s statement of purpose includes the following:

…We seek to make synagogues compelling moral and spiritual centers – sacred communities – for the twenty-first century.

…Sacred communities are those where relationships with God and with each other define everything the synagogue does; where ritual is engaging; where Torah suffuses all we do; where social justice is a moral imperative; and where membership is about welcoming and engaging both the committed and the unaffiliated.

…We stand for spirituality beyond ethnicity, Judaism as a life-long journey beyond the pediatric and the geriatric; community beyond corporation; and commitment beyond consumerism. Success for us is when synagogues develop deeper relationships with their members rather than simply offering more programs. (Emphasis added.)

Without sacred community, marketing is well, just that.

Opera and synagogues …an unorthodox comparison

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

CNN just did a story on the Opera Company of Brooklyn and its founder, Jay Meetze, who is attempting to build a new generation of opera-lovers by drastically lowering ticket prices and holding events outside traditional venues. Sound familiar?

It turns out that appreciating opera requires a certain amount of knowledge and skill, familiarity with foreign languages, and more often than not, substantial investments of money and time spent at the opera house. While some opera-lovers are enthusiastic about sharing their passion and welcoming newcomers to the fold, others are rather more elitist and cliquish, cherishing their coveted orchestra seats and preferring not to be bothered by anyone new or less knowledgeable.

As a result, attendance is declining and innovators like Jay Meetze are looking for ways to attract the unaffiliated. Go figure.

Socialized through Gregarious 42