Zachary I. Heller
The synagogue remains a central institution in Jewish life as a place of study, worship, and assembly, but each day brings word of a new challenging development within each of the larger movements to which synagogues belong—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. Jewish religious communities today share a number of challenges, from the increase in secular or unaffiliated Jews to emerging Jewish spiritual communities forming outside the synagogue. There has never been a more compelling need for a wide-ranging discussion of the diverse issues facing American Judaism.
Brought together by the late Zachary I. Heller of the National Center for Jewish Policy Studies, and an editorial team which included Rabbis David Gordis, Hayim Herring, and Sanford Seltzer, twenty of the leading Jewish thinkers—rabbis, scholars, authors, professors, activists, and experts in the study of the American synagogue—have contributed to this comprehensive collection of essays. Each writer brings unique expertise and perspective in describing the development of contemporary religious movements (denominations) in American Judaism, their interrelationships and tensions, and their prospects for the future. Their combined voices create a timely discussion of the many urgent issues bearing down on American synagogues.
Contributors to Synagogues in a Time of Change take on the changing dynamics of synagogue life, its organization into movements, and the organic changes taking place that are causing those movements to lose their coherence and strength, both internally and as an attractive force for seekers of Jewish religious tradition and expression. They address the current fiscal issues that face the movement organizations and the broader questions of their future stability as well as their significance and continued relevance to individual congregations. Ultimately, the book is a catalyst for personal reflection and public discussion on the past, present and future of the American synagogue.
The issues faced by Judaism in America are not unique to Jewish religious movements. Many of the issues facing synagogues will be familiar to those of all faiths. Indeed, the book includes an essay by Rodney L. Petersen of the Boston Theological Institute on denominationalism, nondenominationalism, and postdenominationalism in American Christian communities that helps us see these parallels. Religious groups of all kinds will find reflections of common struggles that can provide a vehicle for constructive conversations about their own pressing issues.
Published by the Alban Institute in cooperation with the National Center for Jewish Policy Studies and STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal).
“Synagogues in a Time of Change is an engaging array of essays exploring the rapidly shifting landscape of American Jewish religious movements, the challenges currently facing congregations, and strategies for responding effectively. This is a valuable book for anyone trying to understand the transdenominational/nondenominational debate, unaffiliation, trends involving younger adult Jews and recent startups on the religious scene. This volume contains some valuable historical perspective along with an essay comparing what is going on in the Jewish world with what is happening among Christians.” —Rabbi David Teutsch,
The Louis and Myra Wiener Professor of Contemporary Jewish Civilization; Chair, Department of Contemporary Jewish Civilization; and Director, Levin-Lieber Program in Jewish Ethics.
“Do denominations matter? In this timely and provocative volume—part description, part prescription, part analysis, part case-study—some of American Jewry’s most effervescent minds wrestle with the vital question. Their contributions paint a vivid portrait of synagogue life today: fractious, fast-changing, and fecund. Judaism in the years ahead may be ‘nondenominational,’ ‘transdenominational,’ ‘postdenominational,’ or just plain ‘denominational,’ this book suggests, but in the final analysis the future depends upon vibrant and successful synagogues. Memorable chapters introduce us to some of those synagogues, and to their strategies for revitalizing American Jewish life.”—Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, and author of American Judaism: A History
“For anyone interested in the American Jewish experience and the challenges we face, this is the book to read. It covers the passage of responsibility for the preservation of distinctively Jewish life from the “gemeinschaft” of nineteenth-century Germany to the synagogues in America today. Rabbi Heller and the other distinguished essayists tell the story as no one else has.”—Ambassador Alfred H. Moses
“This volume could not have come at a more opportune moment. All who care about forging a path toward a robust, financially secure, and meaningful future for American Jewish life will be drawn to the thought-provoking essays presented here. Many of the brightest and most effective Jewish leaders on the contemporary scene offer historical reflections, personal observations, and incisive insights into the venues, demographics, and sensibilities that hold the key to the renaissance of synagogue life that is so essential to the vitality of American Jewry.”—Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Associate Professor of American Jewish History and Dean of the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Alban No. AL389
paper, 266 pages
($16.00 for members)