It has been the focus of much discussion in the American Jewish world, the new report by the Pew Research Center. I posted about last week for those of you interested enough to click over to that.
Earlier this week Conservative Rabbis had the chance to speak to Prof. Jonathan Sarna about the studies' findings. One thing more than everything else resonated with me, regarding the news about all the "Nones" we have out there - people who take a dim view of "organized religion."
A fact that struck me, and apparently many others, is that within the "Nones" group are Jews affiliated with a synagogue. How can that be?
Prof. Sarna explained that this is an example of, "all religion is local." People who have a dim view organized religion as a whole may still very much appreciate the local synagogue, rabbi, school, etc. That near-by institution is what will matter even if the national offices of the movement do not. These people may not care about organized religion, but they still care about - well if not "religion" (although some do and they believe in God also) then at least "being Jewish".
That to me was very encouraging news about the study. That it is possible to be successful and reach these people is something that can happen. But it is not going to happen just because they are automatically looking for a Conservative synagogue. But if the local Conservative (or whatever) synagogue can show how it plays a role in the lives of people - for them, their kids; show them how to enrich what they do, be better people - then the synagogue can be a vital institution.
And isn't that what we really want our synagogues to be anyway?
Rabbi Aaron Benson