On May 12, 2014, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi Aaron Panken, and Professor Amy L. Sales participated in a panel discussion entitled "A Conversation Envisioning the Future of Reform Judaism," moderated by Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson, on how tomorrow's synagogue will respond to social, demographic, and spiritual trends.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs serves as President of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D., serves as President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; and Professor Amy L. Sales, Ph.D., serves as Associate Director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, Director of the Institute for Jewish Philanthropy and Leadership, and Associate Professor in the Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership. The event took place at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York, where Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson serves as Senior Rabbi.
The complexion of religious practice today is changing, especially in the arena of liberal religions. Conventional assumptions about synagogue affiliation are being challenged. What was reflexive in the past is a matter of choice today, and recent generations may be willing to “purchase” certain services. However, sustained affiliation has come to depend on how individuals deem the meaning and relevance of the synagogue to their lives. Recent shifts in demographics — the composition of the family unit and dual-faith marriages — along with greater secularization and weak Jewish literacy also have had a significant effect on the synagogue. The panel explored these and other questions about how tomorrow’s synagogue will respond to these social, demographic and spiritual trends.