We are delighted to be mentioned in the Jewish Week, in an article about the opening of the JTS Block/Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts, as an alternative prayer service that is countering growing disengagement.
“According to Rabbi Uhrbach, the new center is intended to combat a “crisis of prayer,” a term coined by the late Abraham J. Heschel in his 1954 book “Quest for God.” The crisis is a growing disinterest in traditional liturgy and synagogue services, said Rabbi Uhrbach.
“Adults haven’t been offered models of prayer that reconcile contemporary understandings of God, or at least help people live with the paradoxical tension,” she said.
The “crisis” is reflected in the numbers. A March 2014 Pew Research Center study found that millennials are increasingly unmoored from institutions. Three in 10 young adults between 18 and 33 say they are not affiliated with any religion; the study found that millennials have the highest level of religious and political disaffiliation recorded, in comparison to the post-World War II, baby boomer and Gen-X generations.
A recent study by UJA-Federation of New York on voluntary dues in synagogues corroborated the Pew study’s findings, indicating that Jewish young adults are far less interested in affiliating with Jewish institutions than their older cohorts.
To be sure, efforts to counter growing disengagement with alternative prayer services have been gaining traction. Romemu, a Renewal-inspired congregation on the Upper West Side led by Rabbi David Ingber, often replaces conventional Shabbat services with yoga, ecstatic chanting and meditation. On its website, the congregation describes itself as “unabashedly eclectic” and a center for “Judaism that will ignite your Spirit.” The Institute for Jewish Spirituality, a educational organization in Lower Manhattan, hosts retreats and programming to deepen the spiritual experience of community leaders and laymen, and Or Chayim, an alternative, egalitarian Orthodox minyan on the Upper West Side, allows traditional members to celebrate religious milestones in untraditional ways. (This past Shabbat it celebrated the aufruf, or traditional Shabbat service before a wedding, of two gay members.)”
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