Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Marketplace for Membership

A reaction to this interesting piece in the Forward

It is clear that the problem of synagogue membership is not one of religion but rather of economics. Meaning, from the perspective of Judaism, it is insignificant that most people are not members of synagogues. What is troublesome is that they do not attend synagogues. If the goal of the proposed solution is simply to make synagogue membership more affordable and therefore increase membership, it is a worthy economic endeavor but fails to address the real problem; the waning attendance and participation in synagogue events.

I guess the argument is that if we create a more competitive environment for membership dues, the product/ attractiveness of the synagogue will have to develop and enhance. But is there not already a competitive spirit? Is not every synagogue vying for the membership dues? I am not a maven in economic trends, but why would there be an increase in competition if there is one of small increments as opposed to an all or nothing system?

A compelling argument can be made that the entire institution of the synagogue is now void. The formality and lack of spirituality is not attractive to the average American Jew. The gigantic buildings centers do not cater to the modern age. Perhaps we should do away with the conventional structure of the synagogue and make it more online, more interactive, and more meaningful. Most seem to view the value of the synagogue as axiomatic and therefore must find ways to sustain them. Can't we look at things in a new perspective? If religious values and commitment has not waned but rather the synagogue attendance, maybe efforts to rejuvenate it are futile. Remember, Judaism is not about synagogue but about God.

Most social trends are intractable, difficult to control and manipulate. There are always new movements, new ideas, and new incendiaries (arousing strife and rebellion). I am not accusing anyone of being mendacious (lying and habitually dishonest). I just want a new perspective.

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