Posts filed under ‘Religion’

For many NY Jews, delis are the ‘secular version of the synagogue’

220px-Carnegie_deli_exterior-195x165Times of Israel article, 5/16/16

We should worry about this! Not because it’s a New York phenomenon but because while many Jews identify themselves as “cultural” Jews, I posit that food and other cultural identities are actually ethnic identifications.

According to Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, ethicity is “…a nostalgic yearning for Jewish folkways that once sustained us as a people apart, but can no longer do so – not, at least, without anti-Semitism to drive it. Ethnicity in this sense is doing what we think Jews have always done, whether they are really what Jews have always done or not, and whether or not they are even authentically Jewish; and doing them by social habit, just because we have grown up with them and feel good doing them. Jewish ethnicity is ‘doing what comes naturally,’ but with no transcendent purpose.”

To distinguish ethnicity from culture, Hoffman writes, “By Jewish culture, I mean the totality of wisdom, practices, folkways and so forth that constitute what we choose to remember of Jewish experience. That experience is simply too massive for anyone to remember it all, so every generation selects part of it (reinterpreting it as necessary), and leaves the rest behind. Leaving behind does not mean losing it forever, however. The parts of Jewish culture that do not get selected in any given generation remain in the cultural reservoir, as it were, to be recovered some day by others.”

And importantly, he contends that culture remains viable and important to Judaism because of, “ … the remarkable fact that Judaism demands study, and not just study of what is relevant, but study of everything Jewish.” I want to emphasize this – Judaism demands study… of everything Jewish.

I don’t think ethnicity or culture can sustain American Judaism in part because most Jews now have no identification with “the old country,” i.e. Eastern Europe. Ask most young Jews and they have no idea that bagels and rye bread are anything more than interesting foods. Add to that the lessening interest in Judaism as a distinct culture (again, Ashkenazik/Eastern European) and what’s left to tie Jews together?

May 16, 2016 at 9:34 am 1 comment

Identity In, Spirituality Out For Jewish Teens

And if synagogues haven’t awakened from their head-in-the-sand slumber this might be what finally does it. Not only are Jewish teens diverging from their slightly older YJA (young Jewish adult) contemporaries, the teen cohort is one that synagogues have had some (perceived) success, though I’ve argued that their success is for those teens who are already engaged.

The other troubling thing is Jewish identity is so tied to ethnic and cultural factors that are largely gone from American life. How will a Jewish teenager from Kansas connect with a culture she’s never known?

May 11, 2016 at 9:31 am Leave a comment

As congregations shrink, cantors become rabbis – and work as both

Lots in this article – the changing role of cantors, the market forcing changes in rabbinical training, and ultimately “With society changing so rapidly, synagogues are desperate to find formulas that will keep them functioning… They want as many options as possible and don’t want rabbinical organizations — effectively labor unions — to dictate to them.” Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan

CROPSage-Rosenfels-Rabbi-Julie-Jacobs-and-Matisyahu-2

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Rabbi Julie Jacobs, flanked by former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels, left, and musician Matisyahu, celebrating her rabbinical installation at Beth David Congregation in 2015. Previously the Miami synagogue’s cantor, she now works as both. (Courtesy of Beth David Congregation)

April 15, 2016 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

6 facts about how American congregations are changing

Synagogues need to know the full American religious landscape not just what’s happening in their own back yards. While some of the findings aren’t directly relevant to synagogues most of it is. http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/Docs/NCSIII_report_final.pdf
  1. People are increasingly concentrated in very large congregations.
  2. There is growing diversity among and within American congregations.
  3. Many pastors are bi-vocational.
  4. Worship services are becoming more informal and expressive.
  5. People in smaller churches give more money to their churches than do people in larger churches.
  6. Congregations focus more on serving the needy than on trying to effect systemic change.

April 11, 2016 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

The Jonah Project

The Jonah Project, a fascinating look at religious moderation, http://ping.fm/QfImU Watch Kevin’s presentation at the Gel Conference, http://ping.fm/k3hQI

June 2, 2010 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

The Case for Multifaith Education

 The Alban Institute – 2010-01-18 The Case for Multifaith Education.

Interesting piece from Rabbi Justus N. Baird,  director of the Center for Multifaith Education at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City

January 18, 2010 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

Cool New Website

Check out http://techreligious.com/


January 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm Leave a comment

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