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Invite Them and They Will Come

According to a recent poll of church-goers, 82% of those who don’t go to or belong to a church would go to a church service this weekend if a friend or someone they know invited them. That is a huge number – 82%!

There is no reason to believe that the same number would be different for Jewish unaffiliated people.

So what is the problem? We all know what it is – Jewish prayer services are boring and unless the synagogue you’re inviting them to is friendly or makes a connection in some way, the people you invite are not likely to return, with the possible exception of the High Holidays. Read more »

No-Dues Synagogues Expanding

Factors that have changed Jewish life in the last decade — such as intermarriage, decreased affiliation with synagogues, and more options to practice Judaism outside of a temple — are forcing synagogues to create strategic plans to stay solvent.

Last month, Marblehead’s Temple Emanu-El became one of 15 traditionally affiliated synagogues nationwide, joining  Temple Israel of Sharon and Temple Ahavat Achim in Gloucester, to scrap its longstanding annual dues policy and institute a voluntary membership pledge. Read more »

New Hebrew School Model Unveiled

The Jewish Journey Project (JJP), a collaborative effort of seven Manhattan congregations, a JCC, the 14th Street Y, and various other organizations, is planning to launch a new Jewish education model this fall. With $1.5 million in startup funds, JJP plans to enroll at least 150 students in a revolutionary part-time Hebrew school. If successful, it could shake up the synagogue business model, in which the synagogue sets the standards and claims it knows what’s best for the students. Students in grades 3-7 will be able to select their own courses or activities through one of six participating synagogues or the JCC.  Read more »

The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Experience Needs to Change

Did you chant a Haftorah at your Bar or Bat Mitzvah?

Do you remember what it was about?

Have you chanted any others since then?

Rabbi Joy Levitt, executive director of the JCC in Manhattan, believes that the heavy emphasis on teaching youngsters to chant a Haftorah on their special days is a sign of “wasted training and the wrong message” for Bar and Bat Mitzvah youngsters. Read more »

Welcoming Interfaith Families

Two studies reported in The Jewish Week (September 28, 2012) by Edmund Case, CEO of Interfaith Family, indicate that 50% of non-Orthodox marriages in New York City are interfaith marriages. Of those, 31% are raised Jewish, 11% are raised “Jewish and something else”, and 13% have parents who are undecided.

In surveying interfaith families about what attracts them to Jewish participation, one study found that explicit expressions of welcome matter “a lot.” Feeling welcome and valued and being included are very important in attracting and keeping interfaith families.

On the other hand, feeling that there are barriers to inclusion, and identifying children of a Jewish father as not Jewish, are turn-offs. Read more »