Rethinking Synagogues: A New Vocabulary for Synagogue Life

Rethinking Synagogues: A New Vocabulary for Synagogue LifeS3K Senior Academic Fellow Larry Hoffman presents a thoughtful critique of synagogue life from the perspective of congregational studies, a newly emerging interdisciplinary field devoted to congregational life.

The premise of the book is that discussions in and about synagogues usually revert to such old and tired language as “programming, dues structures, and congregants’ needs” – a language that grew up mostly in post WW II suburbia, when the synagogues became child-centered and service-oriented. Membership was a given then, for Jews who were still primarily ethnic, and dependent on synagogues as places to play out Jewish identity through conversations on Israel, lox and bagel breakfasts, anti-Semitism, and even Jewish humor. The aging of baby boomers, and their imminent replacement by the next generation challenges synagogues to think differently.

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