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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spiced-Up Synagogue Offerings

Interesting piece in today's NY Times about how synagogues are fighting dwindling attendance by trying to spice up their programming. I had heard about this hapening at Reform and Conservative temples, and had even read before about this specific program:
Some 50 synagogues across the country have been experimenting with "Synaplex Shabbat," a national program that began in 2003 that encourages congregations to enhance their Sabbath services by offering an array of nontraditional extras.

The Society for the Advancement of Judaism, a Reconstructionist and Conservative synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for instance, has organized Sabbath programs around tai chi and nature walks. Others have tried yoga classes and stand-up comedy as a means of Sabbath observance.

I don't expect to see yoga used "as a means of Sabbath observance" in my shul any time soon, though this trend has spread to some Orthodox shuls:
Dovi and Esty Scheiner, a young Lubavitch couple who moved from Crown Heights to TriBeCa several years ago, are trying to bring Judaism to the cool and hip in Lower Manhattan.

In order to reach the downtown audience, it was necessary to rethink the traditional synagogue approach, said Rabbi Scheiner. "This is a very anti-establishment, anti-organized-religion type of community."

Instead of holding religious services, they gave fancy cocktail parties in art galleries and lofts. In the middle of the events, Rabbi Scheiner would offer a few words of Jewish teaching.

The parties have now given way to the SoHo Synagogue, which they believe is the first Jewish house of worship in the neighborhood. About 250 people attended a dedication party last month for the synagogue's first home, on Varick Street near Canal Street. It is a stylishly decorated 5,000-square-foot space, complete with chic couches, a lacy flora-and-fauna-patterned curtain that functions as the mechitza separating the sexes and an avant-garde sheet-metal ark to store the Torah.

Cool. Also check out the cute little video of the Soho Synagogue.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ironically, as part of this hip, neo-traditional wave, some reform temples are reverting back to separate prayer services for boys. They say it helps them focus, and that the boys are more likely to sing loudly and with more fervor than when they are in the presence of teenage girls. Duh.

10:55 AM  
Blogger AS said...

How about the IMAX Shabbat experience?

11:43 AM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

Hey, if you've read my history of the Red Shul, you know that the Red shul once had couches too. Does that make the Red Shul a precursor to these kinds of things? LOL

12:12 PM  
Blogger I'm Haaretz, Ph.D. said...

Can I just add one point? The article makes the Scheiners out to be Chabad shluchim-- they are are Lubavitchers who are doing 'shlichus work' and teaching chassidus, etc, but they are not actual shluchim and are not endorsed by the official Chabad kiruv organization. That makes them totally independent and free to pursue the most unconventional route. They also don't consider their project Chabad outreach. Kul hakavod to them, but just keep in mind that they don't go fall under the umbrella of Chabad.

1:28 PM  
Blogger kasamba said...

I just wish they'd spice things up at my shteibel!

1:44 PM  
Blogger Orthonomics said...

I just wish my place would add some flavor to the kiddush. The rest I could do without.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly, i would love Chabad's funding. Anyone could do a lot of "out of the box kiruv" with that kind of $$$.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Orthonomics said...

Hopefully if "we" had Chabad's funding, we would fund our schools first.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ortomom have you seen the pics on the soho synagogues website?? its unnacceptable nothing about that is orthodox sorry

4:24 PM  
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