Synagogue Change in America: A Map of Synagogue Change Initiatives

By Lisa S. Malik

Mandel Foundation, December 1998

Contemporary American Jewish communal leaders often express the concern that the Jewish people are in very real danger of extinction, despite the fact that Jews no longer face the same persecution that their ancestors did. The leadership of the American Jewish community was particularly alarmed by the 52% intermarriage rate that became widely publicized with the publication of the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey. This astronomically high intermarriage rate reflects the reality that Jews are incredibly well accepted and have an easy time assimilating into American Jewish society. While this high rate of intermarriage reflects an extraordinary success story for American Jews, it has given Jewish communal leaders more than a little cause for concern about the future of American Judaism. Over the past five years, it has been truly remarkable to witness the Jewish communal responses to the "continuity crisis". One manifestation of this communal response has been the "synagogue change" movement. "Synagogue change" is a phrase that was virtually unheard of 10 years ago. Today, it is a phrase that is so commonly used that one cannot help but encounter this term in Jewish policy circles. Throughout the country, many synagogues have embarked on efforts to improve, strengthen, or transform themselves through initiatives that many refer to as "synagogue change projects" or "synagogue change initiatives". Many of these "synagogue change" efforts such as Synagogue 2000 and ECE (the Experiment for Congregational Education) have been spearheaded by umbrella organizations, and other "synagogue change" efforts have been initiated and implemented by individual synagogues. With a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Mandel Foundation (the organization formerly known as CIJE, Council for Initiatives in Jewish Education) embarked on a national study of these synagogue change projects in 1998. This document presents a summary of the first phase of this study. The primary research question that we were seeking to answer in this phase of the study was: What is happening in the arena of "synagogue change?" In other words, what does a "map" of the landscape of "synagogue change" look like?

Topic: Programming, Congregations and Synagogues, Organizational Development, Change, Leadership, Research, Religious Denominations, Synagogues and Congregations

Page Number(s): 1-62

Funder: Mandel Foundation , The Nathan Cummings Foundation

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Genre: Report

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Malik, Lisa S. Synagogue Change in America: A Map of Synagogue Change Initiatives. Mandel Foundation. December 1998: 1-62.


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