Declining membership: How one Reform shul is bucking the trend

The principal rabbi at Finchley Reform Synagogue sees a clear future for the Jewish community

July 14, 2017 13:18

With declining numbers in the Jewish community making headlines, I’m asking why it is that our infrastructure is creaking under the weight of a booming membership.

In the past 10 years Finchley Reform Synagogue has grown from 500 to 830 households (we now have over 1,200 adults and over 600 children).

Why? For those of us who live our lives engaged in the modern world, our Judaism has to be relevant.

For six days a week we are bombarded with 24-hour news, so on Shabbat our services have to give space for people to reflect on the events of the week and take time to process it.

It isn’t good enough to read the words of our ancient texts; we have to see their impact on our lives today doing tangible work to be partners in creating a just society.

We can wrap ourselves in tallitot and remember the obligation of the commandments but unless we turn those mitzvot into relationships the call to action diminishes.

The JPR report suggests the Jewish community is seeing the choice as either to run back to the shtetl or to grasp the essence of Judaism and be the pioneers of building a better civilisation.

Judaism gives us the language and framework but it is all too easy for the essence of the mitzvot to get lost in a preoccupation with rules and details.

Doors are closed, people alienated and the potential for good squashed by the obsessional detail; but when Judaism is given the chance to breathe and be a lens to see the world and our duty within it, 
our communities 

So this is why FRS membership is increasing: because our Judaism is relevant to our members. We engage them in innovative prayer opportunities, we reach out to our neighbours to provide them with a home for a winter and Christmas shelter or for a month of Ramadan prayers and at the same time provide opportunities for our members to find their Judaism in today’s world.


Miriam Berger is principal rabbi at Finchley Reform Synagogue

July 14, 2017 13:18

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