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They returned to synagogue. Now what?

At round 8 pm this previous Friday night, an odd feeling of confusion overtook me.

There I used to be, at my synagogue, Temple Israel in West Palm Beach, Florida. I used to be sitting at a desk, speaking to somebody, and consuming. “What is that this factor that we’re doing?” I requested myself. “What do you name this?”

Ah, sure. I all of the sudden remembered. It’s known as an oneg Shabbat — that factor after the Shabbat eve service the place individuals get collectively, and shmooze, and eat, and socialize.

I had forgotten what it was like.

So, too, I had virtually forgotten about what occurred earlier than that. Greater than 100 worshipers. In our sanctuary. Sure, masked. Sure, socially distanced.

We had been open for months. Sure, we had nice attendance for the Excessive Holy Days. However, these numbers have been nothing like this previous Friday night.

There they have been. They have been singing with our soloist, Peri Smilow — whom they’d by no means met or heard or sung with in particular person, who often does companies with us remotely on Zoom from her dwelling in New Jersey.  Her voice and guitar stunningly merged with the artistry of our pianist, David Block. (Frankly, she was the draw!)

Individuals. Singing. In our sanctuary.

OMG. Actually — OMG.

Which brings me to David Suissa’s current article, “A Problem Too Painful To Look At”, within the Jewish Journal. David has named an anxiousness that many Jewish leaders are experiencing:

On one hand, there’s actual pleasure about how digital expertise has stored so many communities related and has expanded world attain.

However beneath that pleasure, I seen a simmering anxiousness that has grow to be tough to confront: How everlasting is the lingering reluctance to enter enclosed areas like synagogues? Has the superb comfort of on-line expertise led to new habits that shall be onerous to shake?

The killer quote:

The synagogue world is now confronted with two extremes—the miracle of digital versus the trauma of dwindling attendance. They each feed off one another, and collectively characterize a menace to the longer term viability of many synagogues, particularly people who have been already struggling.

David will not be alone in his worries. It’s an interfaith exercise. There have been a number of oft-tweeted, oft-Fb posted articles from the Christian world which can be asking the identical questions.

My “favourite” is “My Church Doesn’t Know What to Do Anymore,” by Elizabeth Felicetti, within the Atlantic.

I don’t know easy methods to make this work. After a 12 months of making an attempt to guarantee those that we have been nonetheless the church even after we weren’t in the identical room, I don’t know easy methods to persuade them now of the significance of gathering in particular person. I do know that if they’re watching from dwelling, fancier church buildings all around the nation supply a lot slicker streamed companies than our suburban church with its secondhand digital camera and duct-taped tripod. And it doesn’t matter what we do, it isn’t going to work for somebody. A couple of households have began attending bigger church buildings with extra—or much less—restrictive masking insurance policies. I additionally know that children’ sports activities, held outside, have fewer restrictions, and that returning to a church behavior after 20 months away will get tougher with every passing Sunday.

That is what I believe is occurring.

Many people lengthy to be again along with one another in worship.

However, for a lot of worshipers, what began as a necessity — watching companies on line — has now grow to be a choice.

Why dress and drive to a spot of worship, when you may sit there in your sweats and watch it from the consolation of your property? Particularly should you can watch a slick, technologically adept, entertaining service from Someplace.

In brief, many people have grow to be liturgical sofa potatoes.

What we have no idea, but, is solely this: After they can come again to reside, in particular person worship, will they?

As a result of the pandemic will not be the one development that’s chargeable for considerably empty pews. America has been more and more secularizing — to the extent that America has, within the area of a number of years, religiously talking, grow to be Europe.

So, you have got an ideal spiritual storm.

  • COVID advised individuals: You possibly can’t attend worship companies in particular person.
  • The zeitgeist advised individuals: You didn’t wish to go to companies, anyway.

Are we about to have a non secular reboot?

Maybe. However, more and more we sense that it’ll not be the best way it was BC — Earlier than COVID. Not solely due to COVID, however as a result of the spirit of the instances demand one thing, nicely, totally different.

Greater than fifty in the past, the late Leonard Cohen (whose fifth yahrzeit we not too long ago noticed) put it this manner, diagnosing the non secular situation of the Jews of Montreal:

The neighborhood was like an previous woman whose canary has escaped in a storm, however who continues to furnish the cage with meals and water within the satisfied hope that the canary will come again. There are those that would train that this optimism is faith.

The Jews are the canary that has escaped in a storm — of COVID and apathy.

If we wish individuals to come back again, then it would have to be one thing extra filling than that previous hen seed and water.

 

 

 

 

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