Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary

Overview

Sacred Strategies is about eight synagogues that reached out and helped people connect to Jewish life in a new way—congregations that had gone from commonplace to extraordinary. Over a period of two years, researchers Aron, Cohen, Hoffman, and Kelman interviewed 175 synagogue leaders and a selection of congregants (ranging from intensely committed to largely inactive). They found these congregations shared six traits: sacred purpose, holistic ethos, participatory culture, meaningful engagement, innovation ...

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Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary

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Overview

Sacred Strategies is about eight synagogues that reached out and helped people connect to Jewish life in a new way—congregations that had gone from commonplace to extraordinary. Over a period of two years, researchers Aron, Cohen, Hoffman, and Kelman interviewed 175 synagogue leaders and a selection of congregants (ranging from intensely committed to largely inactive). They found these congregations shared six traits: sacred purpose, holistic ethos, participatory culture, meaningful engagement, innovation disposition, and reflective leadership and governance. They write for synagogue leaders eager to transform their congregations, federations and foundations interested in encouraging and supporting this transformation, and researchers in congregational studies who will want to explore further.

Part 1 of this book demonstrates how these characteristics are exemplified in the four central aspects of synagogue life: worship, learning, community building, and social justice. Part 2 explores questions such as: What enabled some congregations to become visionary? What hindered others from doing so? What advice might we give to congregational, federation, and foundation leaders? The picture that emerges in this book is one of congregations that were entrepreneurial, experimental, and committed to 'something better.'

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Editorial Reviews

Rabbi Sharon Brous
Aron, Cohen, Hoffman and Kelman map out the journey from functional, cash-for-service synagogues to compelling, purposeful and visionary Jewish communities. It’s easy to kvetch about what’s not working in the Jewish world; this study demonstrates the transformative power of dissatisfaction when harnessed by creative and bold leaders committed to real, sustainable change.
Rabbi David Ellenson Ph.D
Sacred Strategies is a vital book that must be read by all who are concerned with the future of Judaism in North America and the role that synagogues can and must play in that future. Challenging and insightful, this book provides models for the creation of vibrant Jewish congregations that will speak to the minds and souls of contemporary Jews.The visions this work presents and analyzes offer inspiration and hope for our community.
Jonathan D. Sarna
Sacred Strategies tells how eight American synagogues became visionary congregations—'entrepreneurial, experimental, and committed to engaging members'—and serves asa primer for other congregations seeking to join them. Anyone who leads or attends a synagogue will be inspired by this book. It is a refreshingly optimistic study ofhow synagogues can change for the better.
Jack Wertheimer
Can liberal congregations transform themselves from functional institutionsprimarily geared to the consumerist wantsof their members to become sacred communities offering something far more meaningful—a religious vision, serious prayer, learning opportunities for all and a means to engage in acts of kindness? In an age when many have come to despair for the future of synagogues, the authors of this wise and probing book answer with a resounding 'yes'—and then show us how it can be done. This is an indispensable resource for all engaged in the vital task of congregational renewal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566994019
  • Publisher: Alban Institute, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/2010
  • Pages: 282

Meet the Author

Isa Aron is professor of Jewish education at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and was the founding director of the Experiment in Congregational Education, a project of the RHSOE now in its eighteenth year. She is the author of Becoming a Congregation of Learners and The Self-Renewing Congregation. Steven M. Cohen is research professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner. With Arnold M. Eisen he wrote The Jew Within, and with Charles Liebman he wrote Two Worlds of Judaism: The Israeli and American Experiences. His earlier books include American Modernity & Jewish Identity and American Assimilation or Jewish Revival? Lawrence Hoffman is the Barbara and Stephen Friedman Professor of Liturgy, Worship and Ritual, and the co-founder of Synagogue 2000 (now Synagogue 3000). For over thirty years, he has taught classes in liturgy, ritual, theology, and synagogue leadership. He has written or edited over 35 books, including Rethinking Synagogues: A New Vocabulary for Congregational Life, which is widely used by congregations of all denominations engaged in transformational change. Ari Y. Kelman is an assistant professor of American studies at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio and co-author of a number of influential studies of contemporary Jewish identity, community, and culture.

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