JLC announces Synagogue Vitality Project findings
Concluding a two-year study into synagogue vitality, the Jewish Leadership Council released an in-depth report describing the current landscape and detailing the benefits of vitality, how it is created, and how it may be furthered throughout Britain. The full report can be seen here.
The research report, co-authored by Prof. Steven M. Cohen and Michelle Terret, concluded that “vital congregations project an ethos that is welcoming … as well as upbeat and positive. They are family-like … and they have a penchant for action.” Relying upon a national survey of synagogue leaders, intensive observation of six select congregations, and a survey of their members, the report found that vitality plays out in four key domains: prayer, chesed ‘human kindness’, adult programming and youth.
Vitality is important in part because vital congregations develop their congregants as people and as Jews, creating feelings of belonging and communities of meaning and purpose. This requires reflective leadership that gives studious attention to execution.
The report outlines steps that the community as a whole can take to further vitality, including funds for innovation, youth work, and social welfare as well as a cross-communal synagogue leadership development cohort for rabbis and emerging lay leaders. These steps could work well in synergy to provide a ‘Leadership lift off’ propelling congregational leaders to levels of greater learning, prestige, commitment, vision and ultimately effectiveness.
Professor Cohen said:
The research of the last two years demonstrates that vital communities don’t just happen. Intelligent and committed leadership that is both reflective and collaborative make them happen. The challenge is that not all congregations can be described as vital places. The good news is that we know how vital communities are constructed and we can inspire and develop the leaders who can make them happen. Some thoughtful endeavours can help synagogue leaders grapple more effectively with fashioning vital communities, provide ideas for generating and broadening vitality, and inspire leaders to further invest time and resources in building vital congregations for the Jews of Britain.
Simon Johnson the Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said:
Part of the role of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) is to coordinate activities which help to deepen affiliation with Jewish life and Jewish identity. This report on the role that Synagogues are able to play in achieving this objective is timely. Synagogues are often a forgotten part of our community but they play a pivotal in Jewish life.
If we aspire to ensure that there continues in the UK, in this and future generations, a mainstream UK Jewish community which is vibrant and vital, and proud of its Jewish identity and culture, then an understanding of the role that synagogues can play is essential. This report provides an accessible, yet incisive, analysis of good practice from around the UK Jewish community and draws findings and conclusions which are fascinating.