Archive for September, 2007

A little honesty goes a long way

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

STAR’s Rabbi Hayim Herring, a member of S3K’s Synagogue Studies Advisory Board, notes in JTA that

“[T]he vast majority of rabbis are aware that they must continue to pursue ways of engaging members, reaching out beyond the core community and including participants who have historically been sidelined by the synagogue….What is most apparent is that many synagogues are seeking ways to change the fundamental assumptions about membership and participation. Rabbis are honest about the problems that synagogues exhibit and know that critiques are often leveled at them — they are still not shaping enough people"s lives and often are perceived as out of touch and parochial.

However, with their heightened willingness to rethink their roles and congregations, rabbis are hopeful that they will overcome challenges to make Judaism more relevant in the lives of American Jews beyond the High Holidays.”

Churches Judaical?

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

One of the stranger categories Google has presented to me:


Along with this listing:


Shabbat shabbaton shalom – g’mar chatimah tovah to all!

Looking for a last-minute sermon? Go from out-of-the-box to fill-in-the-blank!

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

At S3K, we take pride in disseminating only top-quality research and learning on synagogue life. But sometimes–for example, when there are mere hours before the first of five or more High Holyday sermons (followed immediately by one or two Shabbat divrei Torah)–quality just won’t do: it’s all about the quantity. Words, words, words: ideally, strung together coherently, but at this point….

Thanks to our friends at the Jewish Journal, help is on the way!

Shanah tovah umetukah to all!

Cheshbon Ha-tefilah

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

The RRA’s Richard Hirsch offers good advice in The Forward for reviewing High Holyday services:

“Given the diverse nature of our community, did our services manage to provide comfortable access for most people?”

“Given the need to balance personal reflection and prayer with communal participation and congregational singing, did our services allow enough time for both?”

“Given that many of our members are familiar with the liturgy while many others are not, did our services hit a reasonable balance between fidelity to the core structure and innovation?”

“Given that this year we decided to try a new innovation, do we have enough sense of the response to try it again, drop it, or modify it?”

“Given that we assign the final responsibility for shaping the Yamim Noraim services to the rabbi, are there suggestions you might want to offer to her for consideration for next year?”

“Given that there are many opportunities for spiritual enrichment, what was one moment during the services that you felt was particularly powerful for our community?”

For our communities to fulfill the high expectations we have for them, we need to think in terms of “we” and not “me.” Congregants should come to the Yamim Noraim with the expectation of working on teshuvah, and then rate the services in terms of how well the services supported that work. That will be an authentic indicator of how well a community and its rabbi work together to accomplish the holy work of the season of repentance.

Eisen on synagogue studies education

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

From Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Arnold Eisen’s installation address:

Given the vastly changed circumstances of the Jewish community and particularly of the synagogue in recent decades, the first major task that the faculty will undertake under my leadership will be a curricular review of the rabbinical and cantorial schools. We will be looking hard this year at what we teach and how we teach it. It’s not enough that our future rabbis and cantors be learned in their tradition, and especially its texts and music, though they will of course continue to graduate with that learning and the ability to transmit it effectively. Future rabbis and cantors, to be successful, must understand the sociology of the communities they will serve, the consciousness of the individuals they must inspire and counsel, and the detailed workings of the institutions they will lead. They must be prepared to teach and represent Jews who stand alongside other communities in true pluralism. As if that were not difficult enough, our future clergy must combine mastery of these tools and skills with the development of an inner life of spirit and awe before God as they understand these. We will help our students do so, moreover, not only by what we offer them in the years leading up to graduation but in an expanded program of continuing education available to them once they are out in the field.

Socialized through Gregarious 42