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Tomorrow's Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life Paperback – February 17, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


The synagogue members of today and tomorrow are Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Z, whose lives are organized in fundamentally different ways than how many synagogues operate today. Synagogue leaders must align their congregations with these generations, whose understandings of hierarchies and collaboration, native use of technology, and desire to play an active role in producing their own realities are already having a profound impact on the Jewish community, and synagogues in particular. Herring's big vision and practical knowledge of synagogue life unite here to provide the roadmap and insights to help leaders steer their congregations from here to there.
(Lisa Colton, President, Darim Online)

Thoughtful synagogue leaders, both lay and professional, have read many books and attended conferences about creating and nurturing synagogues that will lead to a thriving, meaningful Jewish way of life. From each book and learning experience, there has been much to learn. Hayim Herring's book takes us beyond all the learning we have done so far to new questions. Herring asks exactly what I need to know: Can the mission of my synagogue be framed and shared in such a way that it will find an authentic place in the everyday lives of congregants? Can I challenge preconceptions about the very mission of my synagogue? One of the chief goals of my rabbinate is to create a synagogue that is influential in people's Jewish lives. Herring tells me how to do this work with real examples, accessible theory and concrete suggestions. I am grateful to add this volume to my collection of books about re-envisioning synagogues. It will be on my desk, filled with notes and bookmarks, not tucked away on a shelf. Thank you, Rabbi Herring, for Tomorrow's Synagogue Today! (Rabbi Paula Mack Drill, Orangetown Jewish Center, Orangeburg, New York)

Rabbi Herring provides an extremely thoughtful consideration and analysis of the challenges that confront the institution of the American synagogue and its rabbinical and lay leaders in view of current technological, demographic, societal, and cultural realities and trends. Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today is a most reflective book that is “must reading” for all persons striving to create the institutional frameworks that are necessary to meet the ongoing spiritual and communal needs of American Jews in the 21st century. (Rabbi David Ellenson Ph.D, President, Hebrew Union College―Jewish Institute of Religion)

Hayim Herring, who has for some time commented on more effective ways for Jewish communities to work, has once again articulated the core changes that must occur. I would suggest that if one substituted the word 'synagogue' with nearly any Jewish agency or organization, many of the same principles that Herring has written would apply. All parts of the Jewish community have to change significantly, and the 'rules of engagement' must be rewritten... now. (Allan Finkelstein, President and CEO, Jewish Community Centers of North America)

Hayim Herring has distilled years of experience as a successful congregational rabbi, a leading student of institutional change, and an expert in American religion and Jewish life into what is the definitive book on synagogue transformation. Wise, insightful, truthful, and prescriptive, Tomorrow's Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, is a must read for anyone interested in reimagining the synagogue in the early 21st century. (Rabbi Irwin Kula, President, National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL))

Hayim Herring’s new volume adds immeasurably to our understanding of what it takes for modern synagogues to reinvent themselves into engaging institutions that exist at the center of people’s lives. Herring offers a nuanced, thoughtful reimagining of synagogues, based on a clear assessment of how larger forces—demographics, technology, grassroots movements—shape how vibrant spiritual communities are developed and maintained. He provides a vision of synagogues based on big ideas and collaborative relationships—and clearly articulates the leadership practices of rabbis and congregants necessary to enact that vision. The book contains just the right blend of theory and practice, offering a valuable guide to the creation of the most vibrant synagogues. (William A. Kahn, Professor of Organizational Behavior, coauthor of "This House We Build", Boston University School of Management)

Dynamic services, inspiring rabbis, engaged congregants, increasing membershipsthese can be accomplished this book argues through re-envisioning and re-energizing the congregation. No matter what your religious persuasion is, this book has good practical advice about how to accomplish these goals. It shows how in an electronically connected world the synagogue can become more inclusive, nurturing, and meaningful. For those who care about the future of the synagogue I highly recommend this book. (Alfred A. Marcus, Professor and Spencer Chair in Strategy and Technological Leadership, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota)

Rabbi Hayim Herring is one of those rare people who can simultaneously observe acutely, manage wisely, and innovate creatively. Herring uses all of those gifts as he invites us to capture a vision in Tomorrow's Synagogue Today. Herring's wisdom provides a practical and entrepreneurial guide to forming vibrant, relevant synagogue life. (Carol Howard Merritt, author of "Tribal Church" and "Reframing Hope")

One does not have to agree with all the points in this book to see that Rabbi Herring is a exceedingly keen observer of both external and internal trends that powerfully affect the Jewish community. Readers from all backgrounds and stripes within the Jewish community—lay leaders, organizations and the rabbinate—will find ideas and material in this important work that should be thoughtfully considered as our community envisions its future. We ignore Rabbi Herring's observations at our own peril. (Dr. Joseph S. Ozarowski, Rabbi, Jewish Healing Network of Chicago, and Congregation Darchei Noam, St. Louis Park, Minnesota)

Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today is a bold, gutsy look at the North American synagogue. Rabbi Herring raises radical questions, most importantly asking if synagogues are doing the right work. He lays out an audacious and compelling vision for synagogues, with boundaries and roles fundamentally different from what we know today. But the book is not pure rhetoric. A set of scenarios concretize the vision and take the reader from the big idea down to the details of a re-imagined synagogue. By the time we are through reading, we have the sense that radical change is indeed possible. Throughout the book, Herring asks the tough questions about everything from competition among synagogues and rabbinic compensation, to congregant engagement and religious spirit. Current leaders might not agree with him, but they would be well-served to engage the questions laid out in the book. These alone would lead to a new conversation in their synagogues and the first possibilities for deep change. (Amy L. Sales Ph.D, Director and Senior Research Scientist, Fisher-Bernstein Institute for Jewish Philanthropy and Leadership, Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University)

After exploring the challenges facing the American synagogue with vigor and clarity, Tomorrow's Synagogue Today provides fresh and creative avenues for rethinking what congregations should be doing. Herring gives concrete examples, suggests new ways for training rabbis and considering rabbinic careers, and provides practical suggestions that can help any synagogue. (Rabbi David Teutsch, The Louis and Myra Wiener Professor of Contemporary Jewish Civilization, Chair, and Director, Department of Contemporary Jewish Civilization, and Levin-Lieber Program in Jewish Ethics, Restructionalist Rabbinical College)

Reading Rabbi Hayim Herring’s Tomorrow's Synagogue Today gave me hope for religious life in the times to come. Too often we are staid and rigid in our conceptions of the ways we organize ourselves, and unimaginative in the application of our faith. Herring helps us to loosen up and get creative. Insightful and sharp in its analysis, Tomorrow's Synagogue Today compellingly offers us a glimpse into what life could be like as faith communities seek to follow the Creator in seeking peace, justice, and wholeness in the world. (Rev. Landon Whitsitt, Author, "Open Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of All")

Change in our world is not longer incremental but exponential. Every institution must respond to the realities of the modern world and the synagogue is no exception. The synagogue, while continuing to perpetrate fundamental Jewish values, will be communicating and delivering these key messages vastly different in the 21st century. While change at this level can be frightening, it is imperative for the survival of the synagogue. Rabbi Herring inspires us, in his new book, to see how exciting this change can be. He breaks down the walls of fear through imagining a 21st century synagogue Temple Torah to imagine a synagogue that is flexible and creative in solving modern challenges. It makes me want to roll up my sleeves and get to work. (Marcia Zimmerman, Senior Rabbi, Temple Israel, Minneapolis, MN)

About the Author

Rabbi Hayim Herring is CEO of the Herring Consulting Network, whose mission is to prepare today's leaders for tomorrow's organizations. Hayim was executive director of STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal), a national foundation for congregational innovation and executive leadership development, where he created the Synaplex Initiative. Hayim has served as a senior rabbi of a congregation, assistant director of a federation, and has published dozens of scholarly articles on the American Jewish community.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (February 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566994268
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566994262
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,319,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Hayim Herring's Tomorrow's Synagogue Today tends to favor the abstract and inspirational over the practical, with a lot of talk about where synagogue's need to get to but not so much about how to actually get there. But it is, nevertheless, a book that should probably be read by any rabbi or synagogue lay leader who has looked out over empty sanctuaries and diminishing revenues and wondered what should be done to reverse these trends.

The most important take-away from Herring's book is that rabbis and lay leaders need to accept that the old models of running a shul don't necessarily work into today's culture and economy. On this score, the book does quite well with regards to encouraging leaders to think outside of the box and find different ways to think about such basic things as programming, education, and synagogue fee structures.

The book is a bit weaker on specifics and practicalities. This is to be expected, to some degree, in a book that seeks to remain as applicable as possible to a wide range of Jewish communities. But, at the same time, some more specific and extrapolatable information on how to get from a broken status quo to a viable future would have been welcome.

Still, the book will probably be a worthwhile read for any rabbi or lay leader who is dealing with a synagogue facing financial and demographic challenges, and I would recommend it to anyone in such a position with the caveat that it doesn't do much more than provide the most basic framework for re-envisioning the way we think about our shuls and their relationship to the community.
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Format: Paperback
Rabbi Herring's book "Tomorrow's Synagogue Today," tackles, head on the inviability going forward of the status quo for the delivery systems of non Orthodox Judaism (synagogues, federations, movements and other "Jewish" organizations). I do wish that he would have further elaborated on the no less than equal if not greater need for radical change in how we look at and think about the actual product to be delivered, i.e., non Orthodox Judaism. All the new-fangled technological tweaking and ideaspeak in the world won't bring the vast majority of Jews living in North America back through the doors of non Orthodox synagogues. These folks have voted with their feet that for reasons other than life-cycle fixes (b'nei/b'not mitzva, weddings and funerals) and maybe a worship service during the High Holidays, the non Orthodox synagogue and non Orthodox Judaism are irrelevant and meaningless in/to their 21rst century lives as they (the folks) live and experience them (their lives). The questions, "1. Why be Jewish? Why do Jewish and 3. Why Judaism?" all need clear and compelling answers and there are none to be found.

Talking about how success in the synagogue would be defined as well as the need for measuring results and subsequent accountability would have been welcome topics as well.

But then again, very near the end of his book on page 124, the very last person whose wisdom Rabbi Herring quotes as an example of how to move forward, Rabbi Tirza Firestone said, "If you really want numbers, make yourself more relevant." And I'll add a paraphrase of Hillel's statement and challenge: "the rest is commentary;" now let's go study with the intent of actually acting on our findings, rather than being paralyzed by despair and fear of charting the new course that's most certainly necessary. Incrementalism is insufficient.

Blessings to all who are in the trenches Godwrestling with all of this, realtime,

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone in the "synagogue" business, I find this book full of insight and creativity. Change is a hard thing to implement and as someone in the middle of great changes, I take heart in the vision of a better system in the near future. Rabbi Herring is to be commended on this useful book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rabbi Herring raises many good questions in an energizing way. He also provides useful information. What is lacking is the kind of detailed guidance, or a "handbook" on how to create Tomorrow's Synagogue Today. A good approximation regarding the major factor, relations, is Michael Jacoby Brown's "Building Powerful Community Organizations." Rabbi Ron Wolfson's "Relational Judaism" also hits on some specifics, such as the A.P.P.L.E. model.
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Format: Kindle Edition
From the newest member to the Synagogue Board, from the administrative assistant to the Clergy, all individuals associated with the Synagogue should read and study this book. Rabbi Herring brings his love of Judaism and Synagogue life together with this visionary mind to create a road map of possibility for how our Synagogues might function. This is an exciting book as it gives hope to a renewed sense of Synagogue life.

Our Synagogue has been working with Rabbi Herring for the past year and he has helped us expand our concept of what a Synagogue can and should do. We leave our meetings and study sessions with Rabbi Herring feeling empowered and enthusiastic about the next steps in our Jewish journey. He truly has a deep love of Judaism and the Jewish people and has made it his mission to help ensure that the Synagogue remains vibrant, creative and engaging while maintaining the highest level of holiness and spirituality. The pages of this book are not lofty ideals; they are real suggestions for an exciting new chapter in our tradition. I look forward to sharing this book with my congregation and colleagues and seeing the widespread excitement and renewal that is envisioned on these pages.
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