The Best of The Year: 2015

Top 10 articlesIn case you missed any, here – based on site analytics, and in alphabetical order – are our Top Ten posts from 2015:

Alternative Dues Models and the Larger Paradigm Shift in Synagogue Life
By Robert Evans and Bryan Schwartzman

When Allison Fine first became president of Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, N.Y., she was immediately struck by the process by which new and existing members applied for dues relief.

“The idea of having to declare that you couldn’t afford membership was humiliating and shaming to some members. It contradicted everything we are trying to accomplish as a welcoming congregation. And it contradicted Jewish values,” said Fine.

Children of Intermarriage are Reshaping the Contours of American Jewish Life

The study’s* “bottom line” is that Jewish experiences in college years, including participation in Birthright Israel and campus-based programs such as Hillel and Chabad, are extremely powerful in engaging children of intermarriage in Jewish life. The study suggests that if we could expand access to Birthright Israel and other high-quality Jewish educational and social experiences during college, we can eliminate the differences that currently exist between children of inter- and in-marriage.

* “Millennial Children of Intermarriage: Touchpoints and Trajectories of Jewish Engagement.” Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies

Investing in Jewish Teens: A Golden Opportunity for Action
By the Jim Joseph, Marcus, Schusterman and Singer Foundations

As funders and community leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that the post-bar/bat mitzvah years become an on ramp to, rather than exit route from, active Jewish life and leadership.

On Jewish Leadership in a Time of Crisis
By Yehuda Kurtzer

Our central communal organizations have been challenged for years by the transformations long under way in American Jewish life…

The consequence of these changes is not that the central communal organizations are inherently or inevitably weaker, but rather that they are forced to compete differently in the marketplace of ideas and institutions than an earlier era of Jewish history, when their importance and their centrality was more taken for granted.

Overcoming Jewish Illiteracy
By David I. Bernstein, Ph. D.

[T]here are also more yeshiva students (men and women) in the world today than at any other time in Jewish history, studying the classical texts of our tradition at a high level.

Yet ironically, Jewish literacy is not widespread. Knowledge about Jewish subjects, e.g. the ability to read or speak a Jewish language (in the Diaspora), or knowledge of classical Jewish sources and rituals (including in Israel), is probably at an all-time low.

Strategic Directions for Jewish Life: A Call to Action

Marking the 2nd anniversary of the release of the 2013 Pew Research Center’s Portrait of Jewish Americans, a highly diverse group of thought leaders from all around the United States has framed a “Statement on Jewish Vitality,” advocating strategic responses to respond to the challenges to the Jewish future.

Strategic Directions?: Seven Habits of Successful Jewish Organizations
By Rona Shapiro

I want to propose seven habits of successful Jewish endeavors.

Seven habits because there is no technical fix. Seven habits because creative individuals and communities can and are doing this in a myriad of ways and there is no one size fits all. People are motivated by their own passions, interests and quirks.

The Ugly Side of Jewish Federations
By Uzi ben Gibor

There is an “ugly” side to life. There is an ugly side to banking, hospitals, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, nursing homes, politics and even sports. And there is also an ugly side to Jewish Federations.

What Jews Can Learn From Mormons: Insights From the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
By Steven Windmueller and Mark S. Diamond

Passover in July? Not for Jews, but for millions of others who celebrate a holiday replete with narratives of religious persecution, exodus, a perilous journey in the wilderness, and eventual redemption in the Promised Land.

Why a Bar Mitzvah Isn’t a DIY Event
By Vicky Glikin

A congregant brought to my attention a recent Crain’s article that discusses the growing phenomenon of the “do-it-yourself b’nai mitzvah.” …

I want to make the case for the tremendous benefits of joining the synagogue and having your child become a bar mitzvah within a community, rather than in a vacuum …


Honorable mention goes to “U.S. Jewish Population Substantially Larger Than Previously Estimated

Published in 2013, and solidly in 2015’s Top 10.