Masorti Judaism is nurturing four emerging congregations in London and beyond to augment its ten established communities.
Following a productive Yom Masorti day of “celebration, connection and conversation” at the New North London Synagogue on Sunday, the movement’s new chief executive, Rachel Sklan, told the JC of its plans to maintain organic growth.
The quartet of fledgling groups are Havurah in north London; Ohel Mo’ed, around Golders Green; Nahar in Finsbury Park/Crouch End and a Brighton Havurah.
“We are always in conversations,” she said. “There’s pockets of interest in places like Bristol and Edinburgh and they are areas we are thinking about.
“We are looking to develop.” People were coming to the movement “from all sides of the Jewish spectrum”.
There are now around 3,500 Masorti households and Sklan maintains: “We’re always growing. There’s been an upward trajectory for about ten years but since Covid, it’s been slightly higher. Which is a good sign for the whole community.
“We are getting young people between the ages of 23 to 35 and ensuring we have creative, engaging communities to meet their needs. We’re up against young people losing interest in their Jewish story and their Jewish heritage. Our job is to make sure there’s a brilliant pipeline from being a young person engaged in Jewish life to a Jewish adult.”
She cited Havurah and Nahar as examples of innovative communities attracting members without previous involvement in shul life.
Havurah, for example, was endeavouring to ensure “that Shabbat mornings are meaningful by having heavy learning and not just doing things by rote. So every prayer we decide to use, we understand what we are saying.”
Nahar was bringing in people in their thirties for Friday night dinners, engaging in “ learning and singing as a way of connecting”. Masorti faced the challenge of “how to push people towards their Jewish potential”. But first, “you have to get them through the door” and feeling comfortable. Masorti’s youth movement, Noam, was one pathway.
Sklan was delighted by the turnout of close to 150, including children, at the first Yom Masorti in five years. “It was clear the community needed the opportunity to be together. We had people from Oxford and Sussex.”
Sessions included “Mysteries of the House of Judgment”, which saw Masorti Bet Din head Rabbi Chaim Weiner explain its workings.
A discussion on Israel focused on “the relevance of democratic Zionism and the social movement in Israel and how we relate to it”. There was also a session on the movement’s inclusiveness.