Orthodox Jews Have the Most synagogues.(NATION)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 9, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Orthodox Jews Have the Most synagogues.(NATION)

Byline: Larry Witham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Orthodox Jews have the most synagogues of all branches of Judaism in the United States even though they are the smallest of the three major groups, a new census shows.

The Orthodox meeting places particularly dominate metropolitan New York, according to an American Jewish Committee report that says the nation has 3,727 synagogues.

While Orthodox Jews, who are the most observant of traditional Jewish law, make up 10 percent of the nation's 6 million Jews, they operate six in 10 of all synagogues around New York City and four in 10 nationwide.

"Many [Orthodox] people love to pray in a smaller setting like the one they were brought up in," said Rabbi Elly Krimsky, assistant rabbi at Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac.

Though that may result in more small Orthodox meeting places, it is not always the rule. At Rabbi Krimsky's Orthodox synagogue, where the seating is 700, four services are held on Saturdays.

The large number of smaller Orthodox synagogues is possible because a Jewish house of worship does not need a rabbi, only lay leaders.

"Many of these synagogues don't have a rabbi," Rabbi Krimsky said. "Everything is pretty much lay led, and fortunately we have a well-educated laity."

The new synagogue census, conducted in 2001 by researchers at United Jewish Communities, was released yesterday and will be published in the American Jewish Yearbook in October.

It found that when comparing the number of synagogues per 1,000 Jews, the highest density was in middle-size cities such as Providence, R.I.;, Albany and Buffalo, N.Y.; and Cincinnati and Milwaukee.

The higher density may "reflect the length of Jewish settlement, the more traditional Jews who tend to live there, and the priority given to institution-building," said the report.

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