My wife and I are deeply committed to re-imagining congregational life, developing innovative and creative programming, and planting vibrant spiritual communities. As a skilled community builder, I am often sought as a consultant on congregational life and growth and travel regularly to assist communities going through change, reorganization, and those wanting to incorporate more vibrant and meaningful liturgical worship.
As a result, I am always seeking creative and innovative ideas, and visiting communities that are on the forefront of change. I often share on this blog a number of practical suggestions that can be helpful for your own spiritual community. This is especially true of books that I believe are ‘must-reads’ for congregational leaders who desire to remain relevant and continue to meet peoples deep-felt spiritual needs.
One such recent book I would consider required reading is, “Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities” by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer.
The Jewish Theological Seminary recently hosted an excellent panel discussion on this book with Rabbi Kaunfer, along with other noted figures Professor Steven Cohen, Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, and moderated by JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen.
The discussion is very important because it presents growing trends within the Jewish community toward a heightened experience of G-d, engaging participatory communities, and meaningful prayer. I highly recommend listening to the panel HERE.
In recent years the Jewish community (primarily younger generations) have been moving away from a Jewish experience dictated only by ‘belonging.’ For many young Jews, Jewishness is no longer perceived as a given, but rather a choice. You can agree or disagree with this, but one thing is for certain – those Jews who desire to remain involved are not looking for a Judaism that is a secular culture of bagels and lox -but rather Judaism as a Faith (something I raised in my recent paper at the Borough Park Symposium).
Yet, what many young Jews are beginning to realize is that they did not even know they were looking for faith. It turns out what we young Jews are looking to do is what we have always sought to do, to simultaneously connect with G-d and find our place within thirty centuries of Jewish history.
Seems we’re still deeply spiritual after all!