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Emerging Spiritual Communities

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Ora Niknamfard

on 18 May 2014

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Transcript of Emerging Spiritual Communities

How will existing synagogues and emerging sacred communities adapt to the changing landscape of Jewish communal life?

Historical Case Study: the "Havurization" of Synagogues
[The havurization of the synagoge] ... "can help the psychological Jew meet his genuine needs for autonomy and help overcome his depersonalization by providing a way towards authentic community” (Schulweis, 19).
Synagogues Acknowledge Need for Change
USCJ Strategic Plan:
"The change in language from “synagogue” or “congregation” to “kehilla” is more than semantic. It reflects two concepts: First, it focuses on the raison d’être of a congregation or synagogue, i.e., that it is a sacred community. Second, it signals a welcome to those kehillot that are not formal synagogues – such as chavurot and independent minyanim."

Our collective vision for change
Four Areas of Change
What are Emergent Spiritual Communities?
Independent minyanim
Rabbi-led emergents
Alternative emergents
Explosion in popularity:
2000 - less than 10 in US and Canada
2007 - More than 80 in US and Canada
Mostly in urban areas with large Jewish communities
Not as common in suburbs or rural areas
Where are Emergent Spiritual Communities?
Why are Emergent Spiritual Communities so popular?
Decline of Synagogue Membership and Attendance

Few young adults are members of
Reform and Conservative Synagogues
Conservative & Reform Congregations in the United States Today: Findings from the FACT-Synagogue 3000 Survey of 2010.
Over the last nine years, USCJ has lost about 6 percent of its congregations and about 14 percent of its membership.

The largest declines in membership units, 30 percent, have been in the Northeast.

The 36 largest congregations have declined the most, both in number of congregations (33%) and in membership units (38%).

VeAsu Li Mikdash: A Strategic Plan for the
New United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, 2011
Declining Membership in Conservative Synagogues
Pew Report: 31% of Jewish adults say they personally belong to a synagogue, temple or other congregation.
Saturday morning services in Conservative synagogues drew an average of 24 worshipers for every 100-member families.

Friday evening services at Reform temples drew an average of 17 worshipers for every 100 families.

Lackluster Attendance
S3K Report, 2012
By 1981, havurot existed in at least 1/4 of synagogues in America.
The Landscape of Spiritual Communities
If emergent communities are mostly
developing in urban areas among Jewishly educated young adults, will a gap develop between the organizational structures of spiritual life in urban centers, compared to suburban areas? How will spiritual life be organized?

Growth of emergent communities will have a greater impact in urban areas, where young adults tend to live.
In the next few years, these changes will be most evidence in urban areas and particularly in the Northeast.
As young adults marry, have children and move into the suburbs, they will "disrupt" the traditional synagogues in suburban areas.
Synagogues will evolve into centers that house and attract multiple niche communities.

What would happen to Jewish supplementary
education, as synagogues transform and emergent communities develop? How could emergent communities serve as entry points or engagement vehicles for the unengaged? How can synagogues engage young adults?

Education and Engagement
Networked communities that offer a variety of entry points and niche communities will attract young adults
Emergent communities and synagogues can provide diverse educational opportunities if they act as an ecosystem, instead of in siloes
Denominational Affiliation, Membership/Loyalty
Parallels between emergent communities and the broader trend in American society of not affiliating with institutions (“free-agents”)
Increase in transparency of operational costs
Diversifying methods of contribution
Greater emphasis on volunteerism
Less loyalty for individual communities, and the use of a Yelp-like model for emergent communities
If the majority of emergent communities are non-denominational, will the current denominational labels and movements lose relevance and authority? How will membership and synagogue loyalty be affected by these changes?
How will the professional rabbinate be affected
by these changes in emergent communities and synagogues?
What new roles could rabbis step in to?
The Role of the Rabbinate
The demise of the “pulpit rabbi” - rabbis will be seen as community resources in advisory and educator roles
Rabbinical schools will need to train rabbis to be community organizers of decentralized communities, and to empower others to take on leadership roles
Yael Mendelson
Ora Niknamfard

Appeals to socially progressive constituency
Alternative emergents with social justice focus

Opportunities for serious and engaged prayer

Filling a gap left by other institutions
"They aren't choosing between [independent] minyanim and synagogues. They are choosing between [independent] minyanim and nothing" (Kaunfer)
Emergent Spiritual Communities:
Who, What, Where, Why?
Emergent Jewish Communities and Their Practices, 2007
Emergent Jewish Communities and Their Practices, 2007
Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us About Building Vibrant Jewish Communities, 2010
Full transcript