In the not too distant past-as recently as a decade or so ago-when people wanted to do good, they volunteered for a non-profit that reflected and practiced their values. The hierarchy would acculturate them into the “right way” of doing the work. If they were reasonably competent, they would be promoted up the ranks and often contributed a lifetime of volunteer service.
But that era is over. Today, with the Internet and social media, anyone can become educated about an issue, select a cause, inexpensively raise funds, market and mobilize large numbers of people around it. Individuals can contribute a large amount of good to the world without the help of non-profit organizations and can cultivate a global, loyal base of followers, at least for a limited amount of time. In that case, what is the purpose of a non-profit organization today? How do volunteers and professionals, who understand that non-profits both serve and transcend particular causes, lead in this environment?
As I know the Jewish community well-and the synagogue best-these are the kinds of topics that I explore in Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, published by the Alban Institute. They touch upon the very purpose, structure, theology and leadership of synagogues and other Jewish organizations. Are these core issues of synagogue life, as they are expressed today, adequate for a new century?
Many other institutions that were essential last century have experienced turbulence and realize that their continued relevance and existence in our global, mobile, connected environment cannot be taken for granted. Synagogues are no different. I hope that Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life will stimulate a fresh, hopeful and helpful conversation about synagogues and the transition that they must make to ensure their continued impact on Jewish life.
To pre-order your copy of Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, please visit the Alban Institute’s website (Alban members receive a 20% discount!) or Amazon.
Thank you and B’shalom,
Rabbi Hayim Herring