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New Visions of Jewish Community

Once again, Congregation Or Ami has been held up as an example of meaningful, visionary Jewish community. We kvell!

What makes a community uniquely compelling, such that people strive to be part of it? This question consumes the attention of so many in the American Jewish world, as our numbers and rates of affiliation declines and as the tightening of our finances and free time forces restructuring everywhere. In an America where Jews have gained unprecedented acceptance and access to the halls of power and wealth, the need and desire for communal connection varies. With our numbers shrinking through assimilation, low Jewish birthrates and intermarriage, we wonder: what will the Jewish community of the future look like?

This month the Central Conference of American Rabbis devoted a special issue of it’s CCAR Journal (of Reform Judaism) to “New Visions of Jewish Community.” I was honored to be asked to co-edit this issue along with the former URJ regional director Rabbi Alan Henkin.

Reading through the demographic studies and analyses of denominations and institutions, a few things become clear:

Successful synagogues will:

  • Need to be warm welcoming meaningful communities;
  • Utilize the latest technology to integrate local and long distance relationships into a coherent whole;
  • Be fully innovative and unafraid to remake themselves time and again;
  • Engage people in innovative Jewish spiritual experiences.

Before accepting the honor of co-editing this Journal issue, I asked the publisher why they chose me. I was told “because Or Ami stands out as a meaningful and significant community.” They pointed to our Vision and Values:

Congregation Or Ami is home to a warm and welcoming, innovative, musical Jewish community. We deepen relationships with each other, while immersing in Torah, Israel and the Source of All Life. We travel together down Jewish paths which inspire our hearts and souls, and transform us to seek justice and nurture compassion in the world.

We will have copies of the Journal available to read in our office. So whether you read just my editor’s article, the whole journal or merely glance at the Table of Contents, kvell a little (okay, a lot) that our little shul has an outsized reputation as place of innovation, excellence, and warm, welcoming community.

My Questions: Why are you affiliated with Or Ami? What do you see in our community’s future?

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