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Maintaining the Differences

Friday, 14 December 2007

I might not know what I was expecting, but I DO know that I was disappointed. Watching Dr Ron Wolfson moderate a panel discussion between Pastor Rick Warren, Rabbi David Wolpe, and Rabbi Laura Geller on a huge television screen was like watching a public access cable channel. And for the most part, there was not a great deal of discussing going on. Rather, one had the sense that a set of questions had been prepared and were directed to each speaker in turn. So there was a real disconnect from one question to the next.

I find that I am growing more ethnocentric as time passes. Rather than being comforted by points of commonality between Judaism and the majority host culture, I worry that we are losing what makes our heritage unique and wonderful. I don’t think that it serves us in the long run to adapt every new trend simply because we think it might be the silver bullet that increases synagogue attendance or solidifies Jewish identity or whatever other issues with which we struggle.

Do not misunderstand. It’s not that we can’t learn from others. It’s just that we speak a different language and I’m glad that we speak a different language. I do not beive that God intended for us all to be the same. When I hear things such as “ministry,” “Scripture,” or “I prayed on that,” I tune out. That terminology reminds me of my otheerness. An otherness that I am embracing more and more.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, 14 December 2007 10:52 am

    i do think that we can’t just do what they’re doing because it’s “cool” or it seems to work…i think there’s so much power in our tradition but if i can’t get them in the door, then it doesn’t work to give it to them. that is my biggest problem. but i don’t know that making “nice” to everyone is going to “fix” our congregations either. an interesting thing to consider and discuss…

  2. Frume Sarah permalink
    Monday, 17 December 2007 11:11 am

    And we should continue this discussion…

    It is interesting that some of the groups on the Right are able to get them in the door BECAUSE they use the traditions to substantiate their belief that what they are doing is more authentically Jewish. Yet when we try to assert our own Jewishness, we are regarded as foisting religion upon them.


  3. Sam permalink
    Wednesday, 19 December 2007 4:28 pm

    I think the key to retention is the development of community but one of authenticity. It is noticing someone talking to them and letting them be. We are in the process of joining and that has happened because we found community. The challenge is how do you make community and not scare people off. We have to find ways to reach out on a Shabbat and encourage a return visit. We need to be careful in who represents the shul and what is said. Do we have a we want you back brochure?

    If I was looking at the shul from a business perspective we might look at the metrics associated with “retention” and repeat visits. How welcome does one feel? What is the process they go through? They walk in a door see name tags to be filled out and those of the members. They walk into the pews grabbing a brochure and a torah reading and than sit down. If they are lucky they are spotted as new and bombared, or perhaps they aren’t lucky. When they leave what do they take about coming back? What do we get from them?

    just some thoughts…

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