Jewish Journal

Wearing Bunny Slippers for the High Holidays

by Pini Herman

October 3, 2011 | 12:39 pm

Looking at our modest marketing campaign at the Movable Minyan, a lay-lead egalitarian non-denominational congregation, less Jews outside our established community are showing interest and coming to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services at this year. 

71 percent of Los Angeles Jews attended Jewish religious services at least once a year, fifteen years ago in 1996 when the last LA Jewish Population Survey was fielded.  At that time, one-third (34 percent), were actually dues paying members of a synagogue.  When people were asked what might be their reason for joining or not joining a synagogue, three factors stood out: the quality of the rabbi, the need to send children to religious school, and the friendliness of the congregation.

The 23 year-old Movable Minyan doesn’t have a rabbi, only six past and present members who have become Conservative and Reform rabbis after participating in the Do-It-Yourself Judaism that characterizes the minyan.  We have children’s services but not religious school and we like to think we’re friendly.  So the Movable Minyan isn’t typical, but I’m wondering whether other High Holiday services were also less attended?

The presence of the High Holidays content websites by year on the Internet in English has grown from around 700,000 in 2000 to around 2 million in 2011.  This trend may be indicative of High Holiday outreach by religious institutions or changing High Holiday consumption by Jews.  Do High Holiday services streamed on the Internet influence actual High Holiday attendance at synagogues?

The rabbi’s High Holiday sermon is streamed. Less people are having school-age children and temple memberships may be the expense to cut.  Attending services in one’s shorts or pajamas may be preferable to the friendliness of the mostly once-a-year synagogue crowd. Has physical attendance and the in-gathering of the Jewish community at High Holiday synagogue services declined?

Pini Herman is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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