Q: We don't have a clue how to begin. How do we get started?
first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the wealth of
worship transformation materials that have been created by and are
available from the Union for Reform Judaism. Much of this information
can be viewed on this website. Some of the resources can be downloaded.
Others are available from the URJ Press or can be obtained from the
Department of Worship, Music and Religious Living.
Q: Our congregation likes tradition and doesn't take to change easily. How do we handle that?
living thingspeople and institutionsreact to change warily. This is
especially true for synagogue life, wherein people connect emotionally
to their pasttheir parents, grandparents, childhood memoriesthrough
associations with particular prayers and melodies. Worship change needs
to be organic, and that entails a slow, deliberate evolution with a
great deal of attention paid to each congregation's particular history,
culture, norms, demographics, and expectations.
Q: What's the proper role of the Board of Trustees in worship change?
A: As is written in Iv'du B'simchah: Worship with Joy,
"Providing for and sustaining communal prayer or worship is at the core
of every congregation's responsibilities to its members. Therefore,
each congregational Board of Trustees must recognize its leadership role
in this sacred task." Boards need to take an active, ongoing interest
in insuring the quality of congregational worship. The firm support of
the Board of Trustees is critical to the success of any
Q: OK, I understand why the Board of Trustees' involvement is important. But how do we get it?
A:Iv'du B'simchah: Worship with Joy, a compilation of many Worship Initiative programs, has a segment titled " Engaging Worship: Two Study Sessions for Congregational Boards."
The sessions of this segment should be step one, your starting point.
The first session is devoted to "Why Worship Matters," and the second
focuses on "Getting Unstuck." You should allot a major portion of two
Board of Trustees meetings to defining your synagogue's worship agenda,
using the material in these two study sessions.
Q: Isn't worship really just up to the rabbi and cantor?
the rabbi and cantor have a particular expertise in the area of Jewish
liturgy. However, a collaborative model is best suited to the
innovation, creativity, and experimentation many congregations are
experiencing in their worship. In 1999, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of
the Union for Reform Judaism, called for "a worship revolution built
upon the premise of partnership: Rabbis will be its architects, cantors
its artists, and laypeople its builders." We are a Movement built on a
democratic model and rooted in partnership, with significant roles for
all concerned parties.
am leading our congregational choir and looking to expand our musical
repertoire and the participation of our members. How can I breathe new
life into what we do?
few of our members ever get to a national or regional biennial
convention, our congregants rarely see other ways of "doing" worship.
Just reading about new models isn't so helpful. Do you have any ideas?
A: Consider the sixteen-minute video Worship with Joy: Visions of Prayer, which presents a variety of musical, liturgical and leadership styles used during the regular Erev Shabbat services at three of our Movement's well-established congregations. The video comes with a study guide, making it an excellent resource for actually seeing and then discussing different models of worship.This video is available by request from the Department of Worship, Music, and Religious Living.