Over the past few decades, relationships between synagogues and federations, the two central organizations in contemporary Jewish life in America, have often been strained as a result of overlapping and conflicting jurisdictional claims. This condition has led to competitive programming, duplication of efforts between synagogues and certain Jewish communal agencies, and a general disinclination to engage in active cooperative endeavors. Competitive programming between synagogues and Jewish community centers, competition for leadership, contributors, and other resources, and professional rivalries and disagreements between rabbis and social workers in Jewish family agencies and Jewish centers are simply a few of the more prominent areas of contention which have divided these organizational networks over the years. Despite the prominence of the issue of synagogue-federation relations over the years on Jewish communal agendas and the often intense dialogue and elaborate planning and strategizing
undertaken to broaden cooperative activity, the two organizational networks have remained segregated for the most part.
This depiction of synagogue-federation relationships does not imply, however, that today all is as it once was. There have clearly been impressive breakthroughs in recent years in removing the sharp structural and functional barriers separating these organizational networks within Jewish communities across the country. Synagogues and the federation have been gradually drawn closer together on the local community level around growing resource interdependencies and overlapping domains. The strict separation and segregation of all roles, tasks, and constituencies no longer exists. The separation of the two organizations is increasingly acknowledged to be untenable and mutually defeating by federation and synagogue leaders alike.