NEW YORK (Dec. 3)
Concern over anti-Semitism as an incentive for participation in Jewish affairs has been relegated to a minority position in this country, a survey conducted by the United Synagogue of America, national organization of 457 Conservative congregations, has established. The survey was conducted in cooperation with the Bureau of Applied Social Research of Columbia University.
The results of the survey, made public today by Charles Rosengarten, newly elected president of the United Synagogue of America, indicate that three-quarters of the synagogue leaders in the United States and Canada believe that the synagogue is the center of Jewish life and the prime motivation for their participation in congregational affairs.
The survey also established that there is a growing awareness among leaders that a basic knowledge of the spiritual concepts of Judaism is an indispensable prerequisite for leadership. It revealed a clear trend toward the rejuvenation of synagogue leadership and emphasized the fact that in the last two years 24 percent of those who have assumed leadership in the Conservative synagogues have been younger people.
“ISOLATIONISM” IN JEWISH CONGREGATIONAL LIFE REPORTED RECEDING
The survey found that “isolationism” in congregational life is receding and that inter-congregational cooperation is gaining; that synagogue leadership is still overtaxed because of a dearth of leadership personnel; that the same leaders who serve the synagogue are pressed into leadership of many other organizations within the community; and that 50 percent of the leaders believe synagogue leadership in general is not democratically elected and is not operating on democratic principles.
At the same time, the survey revealed that the leadership in Conservative congregations does not come up to the standards as upheld by the Conservative movement and that 70 percent of those in office refuse to accept the responsibilities of top leadership. The survey emphasized the necessity of a thorough educational effort on a national scale to build leadership for synagogue and community.
Emphasizing that synagogue leadership in Conservative congregations “has arrived at the crossroads,” the United Synagogue of America came–on the basis of the survey–to the following conclusions:
1. The synagogue leadership must undergo “a profound and vigorous” change or, congregational life–in the foreseeable future at least–will continue to struggle for its very existence against the tremendous adds of a general apathy.
2. The Conservative movement, in spite of its rapid expansion in recent years, is not sufficiently rooted in the public consciousness of Conservative congregations. Organizational affiliations must be matched by an affiliation in spirit.
3. The problem of synagogue leadership reaches far beyond congregational confines. It revolves around the general leadership crisis in the Jewish community at large. It is a community problem.
The report concluded with a recommendation that the United Synagogue take the initiative in rallying the Jewish community for concerted action in launching and sustaining a natiszal drive for leadership building and development.