Church and Synagogue Affiliation: Theory, Research, and Practice

By Amy L. Sales; Gary A. Tobin | Go to book overview

PART THREE
Programs and Practices

Part Three presents church/synagogue programs and practices that have been successful in promoting congregational affiliation.

In Chapter 7, Rabbi Steven E. Foster enumerates the motivations for synagogue affiliation and disaffiliation which he has observed as a practicing rabbi and as the chairman of the Task Force on the Unaffiliated ( Union of American Hebrew Congregations). Employing a market analysis, Foster notes that people join the synagogue when they want or need to purchase services which the synagogue has to offer. Some join for religious education for their children or for access to religious services on the high holy days. Others join seeking community or compelled by a feeling of responsibility for the maintenance of Jewish life. At some point in their lives, individuals may drop their membership citing the expense or some dissatisfaction they have with the synagogue. Their disaffiliation may be connected to a life event or to the feeling that they no longer need the services provided by the synagogue.

Foster goes on to describe an experimental program which targets a specific group in the unaffiliated population--interfaith families. This program, "Stepping Stones--To A Jewish ME," was developed in response to the current reality in the Jewish community that 52% of Jews are marrying non-Jews who do not convert to Judaism. Most of these interfaith families do not affiliate with synagogues, and few provide Jewish education to their children. The majority of these families decide to raise their children in both traditions under the potentially false assumption that when the children are grown they can (happily and successfully) choose their own religious identity. Stepping Stones offers free religious education to the children, giving the parents time to grapple with the deeper issues entailed in intermarriage and to make necessary choices. About half of the families in the program eventually join the synagogue or actively enter the Jewish community in some way. Generalizing from Stepping Stones'

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