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2019 Annual Assessment

It is worthwhile to note that even with the popularity and seeming success of such initiatives, there are still “only nine Sharon Brouses (the charismatic rabbi of Ikar in LA) and 900 Reform synagogues,” as one observer noted.16 However, two decades since its formation, this world seems to be expanding with new collaborative platforms and the growing participation of young leaders from across denominational boundaries. We could be seeing the building blocks being set in place for the next phase of the mainstream Jewish community as innovations underway spread and gradually reshape the norm.

Being able to understand this shift could help struggling communities get on board and navigate these challenges better. As Sarna explained, “We see lots of fascinating Jewish religious start-ups today — emergent congregations, partnership services, independent minyanim, and the like. Many of these start-ups will not survive, I suspect, but some of them will make it very, very big. They will reshape American Judaism in the decades to come.” 17

These developments may have significant implications on a number of practical levels for Jewish communities and professionals, such as in regard to organizational and physical structures, staff and hiring decisions, programming, outreach and fundraising, and are well worth looking into.

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