They might as well be Episcopalians

Just in time for the high holidays, a new prayer book for the 90% of jews who attend services once a year.

With that kind of pressure, maybe it’s no wonder that it took a team of rabbis 12 years to complete the new prayer book. By every measure, though, the result is a remarkable volume that overflows not only with the spiritual richness of the liturgy, but with wide-ranging commentaries and perspectives on the holidays in Jewish history, tradition and theology.

Yet the question remains: Can it help encourage a return visit before another New Year rolls by? The challenge arises at a time when synagogue membership seems generally headed downward, and when the Conservative movement, which not so long ago was the largest Jewish denomination in America, is now outnumbered in terms of synagogue members by the Reform. (Of the three largest denominations, Orthodox is most strict in its observance; the Reform is the most liberal; and the Conservative movement straddles the two, adapting aspects of traditional observance to contemporary life.)

Indeed, at the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly convention held this past May in New York, a key theme was the need to re-define the mission of Conservative Judaism for new generations of Jews in a contemporary climate that some observers have begun to describe as “post-denominational.”

What does “post-denominational” mean? The broad-based approach of the new prayer book—in which supplementary readings range from Hasidic sages to Gilda Radner, and from devout medieval Jewish Spanish poets to Israeli poet and professed atheist Yehuda Amichai—is in some ways reflective of this “post-denominational” style that blurs lines between the different movements.

Maybe it’s time to just pack it in.

18 Comments

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18 responses to “They might as well be Episcopalians

  1. out looking in

    and the diff between them and 90% of Chrisitans that attend services once a year (excl funerals and weddings, of course)!!!

  2. EOS

    There’s a term at our church – “The C & E crowd” for those who appear only for Christmas and Easter. They gotta keep their name in the directory somehow!

  3. out looking in

    Oh, I am a card carrying heathen, destined for hell from both my Catholic side (parents) and Orthodox side (in-laws)…That was the other great thing about leaving high school!! No more nuns!!!

  4. EOS

    That’s hysterical.

    Re the WSJ Article: I texted a good friend who attends a Conservative synagogue here and she said their congregation is indeed using the new book. And they love it.

  5. Walt

    Dudester –
    What do “Professional Real Estate Agents” do on Labor Day? It must be like the Jews on Christmas. You never labored a day in your life, so you have no clue what is going on, right?
    Do you just go for Chinese too?
    Just wondering.
    Your Pal,
    Walt

  6. Peg

    Not only am I a Jew who doesn’t show up every week – I confess I don’t even make it in for High Holidays. Weddings, bar mitzvahs and funerals; that’s about it for me.

    This is my version of Judaism:

    The Sage Hillel, an elder contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, formulated a negative form of the golden rule. When asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, he answered[46]:

    That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

    I figure I’ll be learning forever.

  7. Anthony Fountain

    Walt, it’s Chinese and a movie, according to my Jewish friends in NYC.

  8. EOS

    For your mother’s birthday, drive up to Still River Cafe in Eastford.
    http://www.stillrivercafe.com/

    If you want to stay closer to home, our fav is The Schoolhouse at Cannondale (Wilton).

    Open Table’s link and review.
    http://www.opentable.com/the-schoolhouse-at-cannondale?ref=10069&ttr=1

    Of course, nothing says “we love you mom” than a home cooked meal but if you’ve run out of beef jerky, the two places above are sure to be memorable.

    • Are you aware, EOS, that Still River is run by my best friend, Bob Brooks and his wife Kara? I even have a link to them over on the right.
      UPDATE: Oops! It used to be there. Bob and I met on our first day of law school and even though he’s a Yankee’s fan and a liberal, became fast friends in 1978 and continue today. Opposites attract.

  9. not so anonymous

    Glad Still River is still in biz…If one has atheist poems in ones monotheist prayer book, why would one bother going to meeting? If you believe something, I would hope you had done your homework and decided it was true and worth defending for Christ’s sake. If not, sleep in!

  10. EOS

    No way! I saw your link to restaurants but honestly, didn’t click it to see what was it in. Tell Bob & Kara and we give them an A++. You guys grew up together or went to school together?

  11. Walt

    Dude Man –
    Wish Mom a happy 86th for me. I really mean that. God Bless her.

    She has to be a Saint. Saintess? Whatever. Let proof and post copy boy Hiram deal with that. Anyway, she has to be a wonderful person to put up with you.

    They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? But in your case, the apple may have fallen into the creek and been caught up in a rip tide. And taken it far, far away. Which helps me understand things.

    Anyhows, bake Mom a cake, make her dinner (not the lobster shell soup, you load)
    and give her a kiss for me.

    Your Pal,
    Walt

  12. Greenwich Gal

    Went to a bar mitzvah once and the service began at 10am so I go there, like a proper WASP, at 9:45 for the service. NO ONE WAS THERE! I was incredulous! My Jewish friends told “Oh, no one comes on time…”
    We protestants have figured that out – all I know is at my church you come in on time and you are out in an hour or everybody is giving the minister the hairy eyeball and tapping their watch.

  13. Mike Curry

    One can never do enough for their old Ma!