One Third of U.S. Jewry Not Affiliated with Synagogues or Temples

There are today 4,079 synagogues in the United States with a membership of 5,500,000, according to data on religion published by the National Council of Churches in its 1956 Yearbook, which will be released on Sept. 15 The Council defines as members of the Jewish faith all Jews who live in communities which have congregations.

The data published by the National Council of Churches does not coincide with data released by the Synagogue Council of America to the effect that of the 5,500,000 Jews in the United States there are some 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 Jews who have no affiliation with Jewish religious life and are not members of any synagogue or temple. This figure is similar to the proportion of American Christians affiliated with Protestant and Catholic churches. According to the National Council of Churches, only two out of every three Americans are affiliated with some religious denomination.

The Synagogue Council of America is preparing to start a “Back to the Synagogue” campaign designed to reach the approximately one-third of American Jewry which is not now affiliated with organized Jewish religious life and to bring them within the influence of organized Judaism. The campaign will include a survey in three test areas of urban, semi-urban and suburban communities to determine reasons for the lag in attendance and participation in synagogue activities.

A “flying squad” of leaders from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism will address rallies in the three test areas. The rallies will be followed by a door-to-door campaign to enlist members and by local year-round programs aimed at widening membership. A commission of experts will evaluate the findings of the survey with a view to developing long-range programs for implementing the projects suggested by the survey. Other plans for the Synagogue Council drive include:

1. Creation of a “National Advisory Board” to be composed of foremost Jewish leaders in religion, education, government, public affairs, industry, commerce, law, labor, and other professions and trades. This advisory cabinet, to be headed by a nationally prominent figure, will be convened in early fall to discuss the problems challenging organized Judaism in this country and to give the Synagogue Council and its leadership the benefit of their thinking, their years of successful experience, and their financial support.

2. Convening of a “General Assembly” of the Synagogue Council at which outstanding rabbis, Jewish thinkers, scholars, writers will join with the lay leaders of the Jewish community in confronting the major practical and theoretical problems which confront religious Jewry on a national and local level. The rabbis, presidents, select delegations of the major congregations affiliated with SCA constituencies are to be invited to take active part in the General Assembly program.

3. Appointment of working committees drawn from leadership participating in the “National Advisory Board” and General Assembly to guide and implement “Back to the Synagogue” program.

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