Wednesday, December 21, 2011

At Reform biennial, energy, Obama and handwringing over the next generation | JTA - Jewish & Israel News

JTA channeling Dan Harper…

Reform activists and leaders cite several reasons for the disaffection of young Jews: the difficulty of competing for young people’s attention given the distractions of the modern world; the ethos of individualism in American life; a growing preference for virtual social networks over physical ones; parents who emphasize soccer practice over Jewish tradition; a declining sense of obligation to belong to communal institutions.

And then, of course, there’s the deterrent of Reform synagogues themselves.

“The standard model is not working for the younger generation,” said Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, 39, of Old York Temple Beth Am in Abington, Pa., near Philadelphia. “A lot of programming is based on the 50s and 60s set -- one size fits all. But American Jews have become more assimilated and are moving away from organized synagogue life. The movement has to change along with that.”

At Reform biennial, energy, Obama and handwringing over the next generation | JTA - Jewish & Israel News

I’m not certain what’s to be done.  As far as declining sense of obligation to communal institutions, well, we UU’s really don’t strike me as institution builders any longer.  Consider this new book on William Greenleaf Eliot, Eliot’s work via the Amazon review,

When William Greenleaf Eliot came to the "untamed West" from Boston in 1834, it was to establish the first Unitarian church in St. Louis, then a frontier town of 7,000. Yet Eliot's vision and efforts, and the generosity of his congregation, led to the founding of Washington University, Mary Institute, the Mission Free School, and - indirectly - the Saint Louis Art Museum. Eliot was president of the St. Louis School Board and fought successfully for public funding of the city's schools. He helped keep Missouri in the Union, and he proposed and worked tirelessly for the Western Sanitary Commission (forerunner of the American Red Cross). All the while, Eliot preached and taught, visited his parishioners three hours a day, and founded several Unitarian churches in the West. Earl K. Holt III, who succeeded to Eliot's pulpit at First Unitarian Church in 1974, brings to life this diminutive, frail minister - William Greenleaf Eliot: Conservative Radical - who laid the foundation for what was, by 1900, one of the most dynamic cities in the nation.

This was institution building; not #occupy stuff.  Few builders left among UU’s either.

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