Community Blog The Past and Future of Synagogues

By Sydney Gross

The Rabbinical School of Hebrew College will hold a day-long conference, “The Past and Future of Synagogues,” on Monday, January 28, 2019. The conference, which is open to the public, will feature academics, rabbis, and community leaders from around the country examining how synagogues are transforming given demographic changes within the American Jewish Community.

“Many synagogues are in trouble. Membership has dropped and they are struggling financially. But there are also a lot of exciting stories about new and emergent Jewish communities. We’re bringing together thought-leaders and practitioners at the some of the most innovative synagogues in America to reflect on the issues facing congregations today.” – Rabbi Dan Judson, Dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College

The conference will begin at 9:15 a.m. after 8:00 a.m. davenning and run until 3:30 p.m. Sessions will include speakers and panels on revitalizing synagogues and sustaining established synagogues. View the schedule [PDF]

Rabbi Judson said he got the idea for the conference while writing his new book, Pennies for Heaven: The History of American Synagogues and Money, which was published last year. The book focuses on how synagogues have sustained themselves economically throughout American history and how they will have to adjust to maintain themselves given contemporary changes in Jewish life.

In the 19th century, for instance, Judson writes that synagogues raised money by selling seats. There were different price points based on where the seats were. This disappeared after World War I, when congregants demanded equality in seating.

“The question is what’s next? What I really wanted to do was have a conference on the past and future of American synagogues and the ways synagogues are transforming today. There are a lot of exciting movements happening in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and other cities around the country, many involving Hebrew College alumni,” Judson said.

The complete list of speakers includes:

For more information and/or to make a lunch reservation (lunch fee $12), please contact Laurena Rosenberg or call 617.559.8632.

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