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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Synagogue studies: Uncovering inherent, lived Jewish theology to foster an emerging theology of synagogue
by Spiegel, Aaron, D.Min., Hartford Seminary, 2011, 152; 3537503
Abstract (Summary)

Jewish identity in America can no longer rely on culture or ethnicity to sustain it, as it has in previous generations. Affiliation rates in synagogues are on a steady decline and American Jews, particularly younger Jews, have lost the historic value of affiliation. The American Jewish community is more intimate and comfortable with the non-Jewish world than ever in history. This intimacy has enabled Jews to thrive as never before, but with acceptance by its non-Jewish neighbors comes new levels of acculturation. The American Jewish community wrestles with the fine line between acculturation and distinctive Jewishness. This then leads to the question, why be Jewish?

Something else is needed to reclaim the collective wisdom of lived theology (Jewishness) as it pertains to synagogues. Formal, propositional theology is problematic for Judaism. For most of its history, it has been impossible for Judaism to speak of God in relation to the world, devoid of Jewish practice. For centuries, Jews have talked about Judaism as lived theology; it is through one's works and deeds that one comes to an understanding of God's relation to the world. As Jews become more acculturated they become more reflective about God's relationship to them and their world and it is this very reflective relationship that this report explores, especially as it relates to synagogues.

Using an interview method that uncovers tacit knowledge, this project seeks to illustrate how committed synagogue members account for their involvement and how it contributes to their Jewishness. It seeks to discover that collective wisdom of communal commitment that is part of the collective psyche of committed synagogue members. This tacit, collective wisdom might inform a new language that is full of transcendent meaning, allowing committed synagogue members to communicate that value to disaffected and unaffiliated Jews.

The report uncovered some patterns of Jewish experience that reflect the importance of the synagogue. More importantly, it uncovered the existence of an exclusive "insider's" language that is both foreign and alienating to Jews outside the established community. Without addressing this exclusivity, synagogues have little chance to remain vibrant communities that represent the American Jewish people.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Thumma, Scott
School: Hartford Seminary
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 74/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Organizational behavior, Judaic studies
Keywords: Congregation, Judaism, Synagogue, Tacit
Publication Number: 3537503
ISBN: 978-1-267-98216-2
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