Text Context May 2011

Synagogues are places of meaning, sanctuaries for the soul, magnets for community. This month, we look at their history, both ancient and modern; art and architecture; ritual and prayer. And, we feature several personal stories about synagogues and their
Text Context May 2011

Are Synagogues Still Relevant?

Special To The Jewish Week

The recent release of a draft strategic plan for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) is simply the latest indicator of the challenge facing non-Orthodox Judaism in the United States. The USCJ press release was accompanied by data showing that the movement has lost 14 percent of their affiliated families since 2001, and twice that percentage in the Northeast Region.

Wanna Buy A Historic Shul In Poland?

Since 2002, Jewish communal reclamation in Poland has reaped millions of dollars. Critics complain of a lack of financial transparency.

Staff Writer

As Menachem Daum walked through the streets of Dzialoszyce, Poland, in 2002, he saw the roofless synagogue built in 1854, a poignant reminder of the vibrant Jewish community that had once existed there. On a return trip he made three years later, Daum was approached by a man who seemed to be in charge.

“How much do you want to pay me for it?” he asked Daum.

The shell of a synagogue in Dzialoszyce, Poland.  Courtesy of Menachem Daum

Checks Stolen From N.J., N.Y. Orthodox Synagogues


(JTA) -- Checks for donations and membership dues were stolen from several Orthodox synagogues in New Jersey and New York.

The theft has been going on for several months, the New Jersey Record reported last week.

Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield, N.J. and Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, N.J., filed police reports with the Bergenfield and Teaneck police departments last week, according to the report.

The checks were endorsed with a fake stamp and deposited in a Missouri-based bank. The money was then withdrawn in cash, according to the newspaper.

Lincoln Square Gets $20 Million From Anonymous Donor To Complete New Building

Staff Writer

Lincoln Square Synagogue announced Thursday night that an anonymous donor has committed to donating $20 million, which will be used to complete construction of the synagogue’s 50,000-square-foot building on the Upper West Side. The announcement was made at a special membership meeting “to share good news.”

Lincoln Square construction site

Reach Out And Touch A Congregant

In bid for relevance, six area synagogues revamping finances, programming after pilot study.
Staff Writer

The Huntington Jewish Center on Long Island’s North Shore is re-evaluating its early childhood program because of the school’s drain on synagogue finances — and because few of the families enrolled end up joining the synagogue.

Temple Shaaray Tefila in Manhattan is working to more clearly articulate its mission and values — and, as the recession drags on, it has doubled for the second year in a row its subsidy for dues, religious and preschool tuition.

Huntington Jewish Center members involved in new social-justice project. Courtesy Huntington Jewish Center

Yemeni Woman Arrested in Foiled Chicago Parcel Bomb Attack


(JTA) -- Security forces in Yemen arrested a university student suspected of mailing two bombs to synagogues in Chicago.

The woman has been identified as Hanan Al-Samawi, 22, an engineering student at Sana’a University. Her mother, 45, was also arrested, according to reports.

Picking the Right Fights

Special to the Jewish Week

By sheer coincidence, people from very different times and circumstances in my life have asked me this past week how it is that I have managed to stay the rabbi of the same synagogue for thirty years. It is more than a little unusual, I do admit. Most rabbis- and clergy in general- tend to move around at least once or twice in their career. Every time I speak about my rabbinic career in Forest Hills, I hasten to add how fortunate both I and my family have been to be so rooted in one place- one very fine community.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

iPhone App for Jewish Organizations

Applaud Mobile creates iPhone apps specifically for Jewish organizations like synagogues, temples and Jewish schools. I recently reviewed the app it created for the Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton, Massachusetts. Tamir and Marcia Borensztajn, active lay leaders in their community and parents at SSDS, came up with the Applaud Mobile app.

Applaud Mobile: An App to Help Jewish Organizations & Congregations Connect to their Mobile Community

Making Your Website Work for Your Synagogue or Jewish Organization

Quite often I get asked to consult synagogues on their Web presence. The first thing I do is take a look at their current Web site and try to determine in which year it was created. I can usually tell its production date within a few years based on several factors. I then explain what a Web site should do today. After I explain its function, I let them know that the look of the site matters less today than its functionality. Today's Web site needs to be an extension of the community the synagogue is trying to create (or in some cases, has already created). 

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