I just completed two visits in these past two weekends to congregations that are smaller in size and not in major urban areas. I was welcomed into the communities of Bangor, Maine and Columbia, South Carolina. Rabbis Lerner and Joseph, along with their program committees, wanted to explore issues related to their boomer demographics in terms of health, wellness, caring and new rituals.
What was reinforced in these visits was something very important in this day of changing Jewish populations and demographic shifts. These congregations, both under 300 member units, continue to be creative and caring. They both have a sense of their mission of continuing to preserve and enhance Jewish life, and both use innovative methods of worship and personal relationships to keep that flame of Torah alive.
I mention this because we often get caught up in the issues surrounding medium and large congregations in or near major urban areas. Yes, they may be numerous, but, it would be a mistake to think that creative ,caring and passionate Judaism resides only in those venues. There is certain sense of intimacy in these smaller communities that is special to them.
I will be joining thousands of Reform Jews this week at the URJ Biennial. There will be a celebration of the importance and centrality in our world of congregations. Often, the congregations that get highlighted are medium and larger ones. Yet, to a very large extent, it is these smaller, less urban, often rural communities that are the front lines in the challenges of adapting Jewish life to the realities of American life. It would be mistake to forget their contributions.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.