In the second half of the 20th century, Jews across North America began to search more personal ways to connect to Judaism and spirituality. Instead of flocking to synagogues for prayer services and Torah study, small Jewish cohorts known as Havurot began cropping up in cities and suburbs alike. It was a revolution of Jewish spirituality and activism, and showed an early form of entrepeneurial inventiveness among Jews who knew what they wanted, but were not getting it from the established organizations.
And still today we find a need for innovation and reform in the way the Jewish community is engaged in it’s spiritual, cultural and educational manifestation. This call is being answered by Jewish social entrepeneurs who are finding gaps in the services currently being offered, and are creating small, localized efforts to address those demands.
A lot is being written about this phenomenon (see Innivation Ecosystem by Jumpstart), and it is becomming a major element of the Jewish communal field. In fact, the only group of Jews that have not entirely embraced this spirit of individuality is the orthodox.
This may seem obvious to some people, but there is a lot of dissatisfaction among young (modern) Orthodox Jews with the synagoes they are associated with. By and large synagogues are not responding quickly enough to the needs of us young Jews, and we are forced to choose between losing orthodox affiliation and participating in sub-standard communities.
Some synagogues are more responsive that others (Mt Sinai is alright with recent exceptions noted) but the overall top-down structure of orthodox community is not an absolute necessity.
It’s time for us to chart our own paths and find our own voices. I think we should take to the streets (or or living rooms) and find new ways to express our yiddishkeit. We are already doing this at shabbat meals that include lively discussion of Jewish thought, philosophy, bible study and much more. We must find new ways to express and actualize this dwindling fire within us in significant and meaningful ways.