Empowered Judaism

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!


About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Beth Emunah Messianic Synagogue in Agoura Hills, CA, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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4 Responses to Empowered Judaism

  1. Yoshi says:

    Great post Yosh! I just read this book as part of a class on contemporary Jewish trends. I was enthralled with the book and Elie's approach. I also agree that it should be required reading for community leaders. The whole Mechon Hadar enterprise that Elie started with his friends seems very relevant to the messianic world to me. We can learn a lot about how to relate to a new generation of Jews, effectively incorporating tradition in an organic way, and thinking creatively within the bounds of halacha. I LOVE IT. Thanks for posting. 🙂

  2. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Yoshi,Thanks for the comment!

  3. Ovadia says:

    I loved this book. It seems that you and I both draw from the same streams in the Jewish community, and I'm excited to see someone else Messianic reading it and advocating for its ideas.

  4. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Ovadia,Absolutely! I hope all is well.

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