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Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue [Paperback]

By Sidney Schwarz (Author)
Our Price $ 16.99  
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Item Number 115986  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   304
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.98" Width: 6.26" Height: 1.02"
Weight:   1.17 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2003
Publisher   Jewish Lights Publishing
ISBN  1580231853  
EAN  9781580231855  


Availability  104 units.
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Item Description...
Overview
The Jewish community has lost some of the most sensitive spiritual souls of this generation. They are Jews who were looking for God and found spiritual homes outside of Judaism. Their journeys traversed the Jewish community, but nothing there beckoned them. The creation of synagogue-communities in which the voices of seekers can be heard and their questions can be asked will challenge many loyalist Jews. It will upset and enrage them. But it would also enrich them. -from Chapter 18 In this fresh look at the spiritual possibilities of American Jewish life, Rabbi Sidney Schwarz presents the framework for a new synagogue model-the synagogue community-and its promise to transform our understanding of the synagogue and its potential for modern Judaism. Schwarz profiles four innovative synagogues-one from each of the major movements of Judaism-that have had extraordinary success with their approach to congregational life and presents practical ways to replicate their success. Includes a discussion guide for study groups and book clubs as well as a new afterword by the author describing developments in synagogue change projects since the book was first published.

Publishers Description

The Jewish community has lost some of the most sensitive spiritual souls of this generation. They are Jews who were looking for God and found spiritual homes outside of Judaism. Their journeys traversed the Jewish community, but nothing there beckoned them. The creation of synagogue-communities in which the voices of seekers can be heard and their questions can be asked will challenge many loyalist Jews. It will upset and enrage them. But it would also enrich them. from Chapter 18

In this fresh look at the spiritual possibilities of American Jewish life, Rabbi Sidney Schwarz presents the framework for a new synagogue model the synagogue community and its promise to transform our understanding of the synagogue and its potential for modern Judaism.

Schwarz profiles four innovative synagogues one from each of the major movements of Judaism that have had extraordinary success with their approach to congregational life and presents practical ways to replicate their success.

Includes a discussion guide for study groups and book clubs as well as a new afterword by the author describing developments in synagogue change projects since the book was first published.

Buy Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue by Sidney Schwarz from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781580231855 & 1580231853

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More About Sidney Schwarz

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Rabbi Sidney Schwarz is a social entrepreneur, an author and a political activist. He founded and led PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values for twenty-one years. He is also the founding rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, where he continues to teach and lead services. Currently, he serves as a senior fellow at Clal The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership where he is involved in a program that trains rabbis to be visionary spiritual leaders. He is the author of Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue and Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World.

Rabbi Sidney Schwarz is available to speak on the following topics:

Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish FutureTribal vs. Covenantal Identity: Jews and the American Public SquareFinding a Spiritual Home: Redefining the Religious EnterpriseReaching the Jewish Community of the 21st Century: Educating for Jewish CitizenshipBetween Conscience and SolidarityCan Social Justice Save the Jewish Soul?Click here to contact the author.

Sidney Schwarz currently resides in Rockville Baltimore Baltimore, in the state of Maryland. Sidney Schwarz was born in 1953 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Founder and President Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and V.

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Profiling four synagogues  Feb 7, 2004
Finding A Spiritual Home: How A New Generation Of Jews Can Transform The American Synagogue by Rabbi Sidney Schwarz is an informed and informative examination of a new synagogue model for the contemporary American synagogue community. Profiling four synagogues (each of which sports unique innovations and each of which is connected to one of the major movements of Judaism), Finding A Spiritual Home is a thought provoking and far-reaching discussion of what it means to congregate together and share experiences, understanding, rituals and celebrations of the Jewish faith.
 
reasonably well done  Feb 6, 2002
I concur with most of the praise of other reviewers, though as someone who willingly chose a megashul I am probably a bit less dissatisfied with ordinary synagogues than they are. A caveat or two: (1) Schwarz seems to be writing for a distinctly "new agey" audience -- baby boomers, politically ultraliberal, oriented towards mysticism rather than learning. I suspect that many unaffilated Jews aren't the type of would-be congregant that Schwarz is most interested in. (2) I don't think Schwarz emphasizes education as much as I would have; certainly, I chose my shul partially because it seemed to have more educational opportunities than smaller ones (e.g. a study session after services on Saturday).
 
Interesting, Thought Provoking and Fun  Sep 23, 2001
The book focuses on issues faced by many of our generation. One can easily relate to the searching and the questions posed by the people portrayed.
The clear and readable style of writing, along with "down to earth" anecdotes makes it an enjoyable read.
Recommended for all those trying to figure out how to enjoy a Jewish spiritual experience in today's world.
 
Book won't take U.S. synagogue transformation far enough  Sep 13, 2000
By Alan. D. Abbey

Virtual Jerusalem Senior News and Business Editor

From the title alone, it is clear that Rabbi Sydney Schwarz is taking on a big topic in his book, "Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue." He offers a perceptive analysis of the current malaise affecting American synagogues (of all denominations, although he focuses on the less stringent ones) and some useful suggestions.

Nonetheless, in the end, he falls

short of offering anything other than programmatic solutions. In part, it's not his fault, because he is not only part of the system that created the problem, but because a true solution to the problem would require a major change in the way most American Jews live.

Schwarz, rabbi of a Reconstructionist synagogue in Bethesda, Md., doesn't shy away from describing the stultifying, boring, uninspiring and essentially unspiritual activities that comprise most Friday evenings and Saturday mornings in American synagogues.

His short history of the development of the American synagogue, from vibrant, crowded, urban, ethnically identified neighborhood "shul" to suburban, palatial, cold, (often) empty and spiritually dead "synagogue center" is right on point and pitiless.

I have sat in many such "Jewish centers," and he is right in his descriptions of them. Except for rare moments - usually self-generated - such places are the last locations one can find an emotional, spiritual charge. There is even one shed of a synagogue I know that people refer to as the "airplane hangar," for its forbidding size, sound problems and empty feeling.

On the bright side (and it isn't all gloomy), Schwarz offers uplifting tales of spiritual renewal in the words of a handful of Baby Boomers who have found homes at synagogues he describes as truly filling the needs of their congregants and community.

Then he offers short histories of each of those places, one each from the four mainstream Jewish denominations in the U.S.: Conservative, Modern Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform. The Orthodox-educated Schwarz conceded he barely penetrated the vast and diverse world of Orthodoxy and consequently found only one extremely liberal synagogue in Riverdale, N.Y., that met his criteria.

Beyond the mainstream movements, Schwarz also has kind words for the distinctly American Jewish Renewal movement, a hodgepodge of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach-style folk festival Judaism, psychoanalysis, Eastern mysticism and New Age trendiness.

While the numbers it has drawn in absolute terms aren't particularly large, Schwarz lauds Jewish Renewal for its energy, creativity and willingness to experiment.

Even Schwarz finds its syncretism and abandonment of most traditional practices as problematic. He is probably right in predicting that some of its less way-out practices will find themselves mainstreamed over time. For example, Jewish-style meditation practices already are finding a home even in traditional congregations.

Schwarz's programmatic suggestions are all worthy, some, however, more than others.

His first idea is the businesslike call for a "mission statement." Surely a product of a technocratic society, a "mission statement" to me sounds ludicrous and bureaucratic.

Second, he calls for bringing more "singable music" to services. That, too, is fine, as far as it goes. But it can lead to the odd practice (one I've heard) of singing important, traditional prayers such as the Kedusha portion of the Amidah (Shmone Esray) to Broadway show tune melodies.

Others are simply no-brainers, such as creating systems for personal support. If a community isn't doing that in the first place, what kind of community is it?

Schwarz also proposes bringing a social justice agenda into synagogues - a distinctly liberal American ideal, although admittedly one that is practiced by some of the right-wing Orthodox synagogues he never got close to. They are probably pursuing political agendas to which Schwarz doesn't subscribe (unrelenting unwillingness to support compromise in the Middle East, school vouchers and anti-abortion positions).

Many of his ideas, however, seem far from what I see as the "mission statement" of a synagogue - providing a warm and comfortable place where Jews can engage in a dialogue with God. Schwarz also fails to address the point that the American synagogues he lauds in his book not only have programming to draw the masses, they also are led by charismatic leaders who are the real draws to the place. Mission statements aren't going to bring people to synagogue, but dynamic leaders will.

Furthermore, it is the architecture itself that works against the American synagogue. Unless you are going for "high church" style services with organs and choirs (If you want that, Catholics do it better, anyway.), giant American synagogue sanctuaries just can't work as places of worship, because they are simply too big (even if - or especially when - no one shows up for services).

Furthermore, in such large synagogues, the badly built, poorly used and rapidly aging structures tend to become the main concern of synagogue leadership, rather than the quality of the time spent in them.

If American Jews spent their davvening time in groups of 30-50 in small, tight quarters that echoed with their voices, instead of the cathedrals they built themselves to emulate the Christians, they would find more authentic, spiritual experiences than they ever can now.

How that could work in the sprawling American suburbs, where each town has one giant "synagogue center" of each denomination, and when rich and successful Jews still want to build monuments to their egos, is the big question Schwarz doesn't answer.

- Virtual Jerusalem News and Business Editor Alan Abbey has davvened everywhere from tiny "shtiebls" in Jerusalem's Old City to airplane-hangar style Jewish centers in American suburbs.

 
Jewish Newspapers Highlight Rabbi Schwarz's Book  Aug 1, 2000
The following is excerpted from an article in the New York Jewish Week by Gary Rosenblatt, Editor in Chief. He agreed to allow his article to be reprinted as long as credit is given to himself and the Jewish Week. Other Jewish publications have highlighted this book, as well.

Most synagogues today, whether they are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionsist, are struggling to increase, and even maintain, membersihp. And most of their services are, well, boring. Across the denominational lines, congregants complain services are too long, too routine and less than inspiring, even as they wonder why more young people aren't joining up. Now comes a Washington-area rabbi, Sid Schwarz, who has written a thoughtful analysis of why synagogues are not meeting today's needs and a thought-provoking plan to help them make the paradigm shift he asserts is necessary for their survival and success. The book, "Finding a Spiritual Home," describes in detail four model congragations, one from each denomination, and how they are serving and inspiring a new generation of American Jews. It also includes personal essays from congregants about how their synagogue has given new meaning to their lives, and concludes with "ten strategies to transform your congregation." Rabbi Schwarz's thesis is both simple and revolutionary, making the case that most synagogues have not satisfied or attracted the baby boomers, many of whom are spiritual seekers turned off by the formality and rigidity they've found in established congregations. The new American Jews are looking for more personal meaning in their lives and a strong sense of connectedness and belonging. What's needed, he asserts, is to change the institution from a primarily child-centered synagogue-center, with its educational, cultural and social components, into a warmer, family-oriented syangogue-community, a synthesis of the synagogue-center and the havurah, combining informality and participation within the structure of the traditional synagogue. Easier said than done, the rabbi readily admits. "Even synagogues that understand the need for change find it difficult to move forward," he said during an interview from his office in Washington, where he is founding president of the Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values. But it can be, and Rabbi Schwarz profiles four congregations he feels successfully respond to the religious needs of younger Jews. While there are striking differences among the four congregations, they each have a welcoming environment, and an articulated mission promoting serious Judaism. And they each have inspiring rabbis who seek to empower their members, making them feel part of a real community of caring Jews. But Rabbi Schwarz is quick to point out that the key to success is not dependent on "superstar rabbis who do everything themselves," but almost the opposite, spiritual leaders able to teach their congregants that "they, the members, own it all. We have such talented people in our synagogues who are untapped," says Rabbi Schwarz, who advocates giving them a gentle push. The proposals Rabbi Schwarz offers for profound change are compelling and merit serious attention and discussion. They seek to help young American Jewish, and the institutions created to serve them, realize that meaningful Jewish lives cannot be lived vicariously, through a surrogate synagogue or rabbi, whose goals should be to teach, guide, inspire and empower. He makes the convincing case that only if we recognize the need to harness the energy of alternative services and spiritual seekers into the mainstream will we be able to transform our synagogues into living institutions able to meet the needs of the new century.

 

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