The Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty of Wel­com­ing: How to Trans­form Your Con­gre­ga­tion into a Sacred Community

  • Review
By – October 24, 2011

Try this check­list on your syn­a­gogue. Give it one point for each of the fol­low­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics. It is (1) a place of engag­ing and spir­i­tu­al­ly mov­ing prayer, (2) study and Jew­ish learn­ing, (3) good deeds (4) warmth and out­reach, and (5) heal­ing. If your syn­a­gogue has earned all five points — stay put. But, if your syn­a­gogue isn’t such a place or if you are look­ing for a syn­a­gogue with these char­ac­ter­is­tics, it is time for you to read The Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty of Wel­com­ing: How to Trans­form Your Con­gre­ga­tion Into A Sacred Com­mu­ni­ty by Ron Wolf­son. The read­er will learn how to trans­form” syn­a­gogues into a vibrant kehillah kedoshah,” a sacred com­mu­ni­ty,” with those characteristics. 

The book itself accom­plish­es sev­er­al of the objec­tives of a kehillah kedoshah” despite the fact it is less than 200 pages. It is inspi­ra­tional, and teach­es Jew­ish val­ues and learn­ing. That is espe­cial­ly sur­pris­ing because at first glance the book appears to be a glitzy how-to man­u­al. In actu­al­i­ty it is quite the oppo­site. The punchy and pithy nar­ra­tive is filled with teach­ings of the Sages includ­ing Pirke Avot, Hil­lel, Mar­tin Buber, Brat­sla­va Rebbe and poignant illus­tra­tive sto­ries of neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence peo­ple have with syn­a­gogues. Woven into this mate­r­i­al are soci­o­log­i­cal data about the chang­ing nature of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, social sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies about what seems to work to entice and keep peo­ple involved in places of wor­ship, and web­sites, an action guide and addi­tion­al resources. It is a book that is a must read for cler­gy peo­ple, con­gre­gants and pol­i­cy mak­ers who want to broad­en and enrich their syn­a­gogues and for all per­sons who are com­mit­ted to keep­ing Judaism an inte­gral part of the Jew­ish people.

Dr. Ron Wolf­son is Fin­ger­hut Pro­fes­sor of Edu­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Judaism in Los Ange­les. He is pres­i­dent of Syn­a­gogue 3000, an insti­tute for envi­sion­ing the syn­a­gogue of the future. He is the author of sev­er­al books, includ­ing Shab­bat: The Fam­i­ly Guide to Prepar­ing for and Cel­e­brat­ing the Sab­bath. Includes index, sug­gest­ed readings.

Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

Discussion Questions