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137http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2013/03/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---03_08_2013
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 03_08_2013
03/07/2013 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
March 8, 2013

 

By the time you read this I’ll be home from the annual convention of Reform Rabbis. The CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) gathers annually for study, perspective and collegiality. This year, we gathered in Long Beach, California. Our focus was on Judaism as we know it and as it’s shifting in this internet-centered, Next Gen, 21st century world. “Rabbis Leading the Shift: Jewish Possibility in a Rapidly Changing World” was the theme that tied together all our study and conversation.

                “Leading the Shift” means getting ahead of the trends that are reshaping our world. The trends are sometimes elusive and nearly always complicated because they are not perfectly visible or quantified. The trends are mostly anecdotal and what data is available about them remains useful for only a brief period. Therefore, getting ahead of the trends requires less surgical and long-term changes and more trial and error again and again. Some models of change already exist and we can learn from them; but, too few metrics exist to suggest that these models will endure or if they can be successful outside their original trial settings.

                The shift that dominates the conversation is technology, who’s using it and for what purposes. Technology is, as you know, about the internet, smartphones, and social media. Who’s using technology exceeds 1 billion users on Facebook, a large percentage of whom live outside the U.S., and the ages of users run the gamut from very young to very old, but mostly young. Technology is being used for everything and I mean that in the broadest and deepest sense of the word.

                In Judaism, the combination of Next Gen’ers who use smartphones and social media to build communities of interest has redefined the familiar Jewish community. Increasingly, post-denominational Jews, those who identify themselves as Jewish but not Reform or Conservative, are changing the landscape and challenging the ways synagogues and “legacy Jewish institutions” (JCC’s, Hadassah, NCJW, etc.) are doing business. Some new answers are helping define new ways of doing business, but what works this year might not be useful the following year. There are no perfect answers, because the questions are still being asked, and I don’t believe that the best questions have even been asked yet.

                For rabbis and Jewish leaders of all kinds, the most important duty is to recognize the Shifts as they are identified, and to embrace the responsibility to engage in new and intentional conversations about them. Successful answers should be published for everyone to emulate; and, unsuccessful answers should inspire leaders to re-imagine new possibilities. At Congregation Beth Israel, we have held intentional conversations about Shifts we’ve observed. Live-streaming worship and adult education, and building an on-line congregation is just one answer. High-quality worship, study and community service are parts of other answers. Inspired by the CCAR conference in Long Beach, the clergy team and Temple Board will continue to address the challenges that will help us build value in congregational life. At www.beth-israel.org, Beth Israel is described as a place where Judaism is Relevant, Joyful, and Meaningful, the very words that are used to describe 21st century synagogues that are leading the Shift. We’re on our way.

                Please accept my invitation to join me, our clergy and lay leaders in Leading the Shift at Beth Israel. It’s not enough that we are the oldest synagogue in Texas, organized in 1854; we also have to be the finest synagogue for the 21st century.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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