Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bar Mitzvahs Get New Look to Build Faith

American Jews, like Christians, struggle with membership and youth engagement. In an attempt to reverse this trend, members of the liberal branch of Judaism called Reform, want to change the nature of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, which has sometimes become ostentatious. (see blog post on Sam Horowitz,  and another called Bar Mitzvah Boy Goes Viral)

According to this story in the New York Times, leaders of the Reform branch believe that Bar Mitzvahs do not produce a good understanding of the Jewish faith or its spirituality.

The new initiative allows individual congregations to come up with their own program and share it with other congregations. The New York Times says that many congregations are moving in a similar direction. They want to involve the parents so the kids do not leave the synagogue after the Bar Mitzvah and, says the Times, many "want the children to spend less time learning Hebrew and memorizing prayers, and more time working as a group on sustained “social action” projects."

Religion students might read this story and compare the efforts of Jewish Reform leaders to reverse falling membership with efforts of Christian leaders to reverse similar trends in its membership.

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