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Guide to synagogue transformation

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Synagogue 2000

Founded in 1996 by Rabbi Larry Hoffman and the University of Judaism’s Ron Wolfson, S2K, as its leaders call it, works intensively with Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist synagogues over a three-year period.

The synagogue’s lay leaders and clergy study traditional and modern Jewish texts together, focusing on six “spokes” of synagogue life: prayer, institutionalizing change, study, good deeds, ambiance and healing.

Starting with 16 congregations around the country, S2K is now working with 11 synagogues in the Denver-Boulder area and five in the Washington area. It is about to start working with groups of synagogues in suburban Detroit and New York as well as a national group of 18 Reform temples.

The Experiment in Congregational Education

A project of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s education school, ECE has worked with 14 Reform temples since 1992. As with S2K, ECE congregations form teams of lay leaders and clergy who study together and develop a vision for improving the synagogue.

ECE encourages congregations to make education central to all synagogue activities rather than simply a function of the religious school. The project is no longer working directly with synagogues and is instead putting together a series of books about synagogue transformation and is developing a Web site to help congregations start transformation processes.

Synagogue Transformation and Renewal

A philanthropic partnership of mega-donors Charles Schusterman, Michael Steinhardt and Edgar Bronfman, STAR will invest several million dollars in efforts to reinvigorate synagogue life.

Founded in December 1999, STAR will announce its specific funding plans at a conference in early September. Officials say it will not directly fund synagogues or duplicate offerings of other programs, but it will likely serve as a think tank on synagogue renewal or offer professional development sessions for clergy.

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