Thursday, October 30, 2008


STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal) is an organization dedicated to working with synagogues to find new ways to fulfill our visions as congregations. One of their (most successful) initiatives is called Synaplex - the name is cross between "Synagogue" and "Multiplex."

The idea is simple - on Shabbat, offer a wide range of activities. Prayer is certainly part the day, but, alternative activities can be, too. Everything from the expected (Torah study) to the experimental (Jewish meditation) to some radically "out of the box" idea is possible. Some synagogues do this weekly, some dedicate an occasional (often monthly) Shabbat to be their "Synaplex Shabbat." The thinking goes that one-size doesn't fit all, especially in religion. By offering a wide range of activities, it allows a community to come together on Shabbat, but still gives room for people to observe Shabbat in a way which best suits them.

Some synagogues have a fully communal component (e.g. everyone prays - perhaps in a shortened service) before other activities begin. Some allow for multiple activities to be going on throughout the day. But, all of the Synaplex congregations are dedicated to finding new expressions for Shabbat, and new ways to draw members in the synagogue.

There's a lot more details at their website, and I encourage you to check it out. But, based on what you read there, or what I've already told you, I'd love to hear your thoughts: do you like this idea? Do you think it could work here at CBA? Do you have any reservations about it?


Matt said...

I like the concept. Try some new things each Shabbat and see what catches on. After a series of these, a better picture of what the congregation likes best would emerge. I think it would still be important to have at least one new activity each time.

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg said...

A lot of us, myself often included, are afraid of a program "failing." But, it might be useful to remember Thomas Edison who was once asked if he had any results from all of his experiments. He said (paraphrasing), "I have many results. I can tell you hundreds of things that don't work!"

Elaine K said...

We at STAR encourage this experimentation and the ensuing evaluation of the process and the product. Characteristic of visionary congregations is the willingness to take risks and to be reflective. Starting small and building upon your successes eases the odds somewhat. Elaine Kleinmann, NY Synaplex™ Coordinator