I was wondering if there have been successful programs in getting younger adults--age 20's and 30's--to "regular" Shabbat evening services (not "Family" services). Anyone have any success? If so, how did you do it? We can get this age group to "Family Services" but not to the other services. Fred 650 member units and 500 member units (two congregations)
We attracted a different segment of the population to Friday night services by offering a Kabbalat Shabbat once a month, at 6:30 P.M. instead of 8:00 P.M. We have a "nosh and schmooze" beginning at 6:00 P.M. in place of an Oneg afterward. Stephanie
We have many young singles and couples in our community that do not belong to synagogues.
In order to serve this population, the Conservative rabbi around the corner and I started a once-a-month Shabbat service and dinner program for young singles and couples in the Generation X generation, approximately 22--35. We have our own service at 7:15 P.M. and then have a dinner at approximately 8:00 P.M. We alternated between the Conservative synagogue and this one (Reform). The service is the 2nd Friday night of each month.
We use melodies from both traditions, and use English as well. In the eighteen months that we have been doing this program (taking July and August off), we have seen the program grow into a group of about twenty-two to twenty-five singles and couples that come together on a monthly basis to pray, eat, schmooze, network, relax, and be Jewish.
Francyne approximately 430 family units
In my 20's and 30's I preferred a service with guitar music instead of the choir or old melodies. I rarely was at a service like that unless I was out of town. I am forty now and still prefer the songs by Jeff Klepper, Danny Maseng, and Debbie Friedman, and other new music. I guess a lot of it was written in the 1970's and 80's so it is not so new anymore, but it is not my father?s Oldsmobile, ummm, I mean service. Carol
Carol and Fred are onto something that is currently drawing young folks in substantial numbers at both erev Shabbat and Shacharit services. B'nai Jeshurun on the upper west side of Manhattan runs several concurrent services both evening and morning to accommodate the crowds in their 20's and 30's. The last two weeks at Kol Haneshemah in Jerusalem there was a similar SRO throng (as there has been each time we visit with them), and several months ago I posted [to the list serv] a note of my experience with Rabbi Sergio Bergman at Libertad Synagogue in Argentina. (hundreds at Kabbalat Shabbat).
The common thread at all of these services was the music--niggunum that lifted, moved, took the congregation aloft. No stilted responsive readings, no performances by rabbis, cantors, or choirs; just Jews in the pews letting the mood take them somewhere else. We can do it, and they will come. All it takes is imagination and sincerity.
Many congregations across North America have been successful at reaching out to 20s and 30s, connecting them to Judaism and bringing them back to the synagogue. What's important is finding out from the 20s and 30s what they're looking for. They may be interested in attending Friday night services but may be anxious about showing up and being the only 28-year-old who is there.
Some congregations offer a monthly Shabbat Unplugged Service for young adults. Others offer a variety of programming (Torah on Tap, Mitzvah Day projects) that includes Shabbat services with the congregation. One 20s/30s group I'm thinking of goes to Friday night services together on the 1st Friday of the month. Another group tells others that they can come any Friday night and find young adults sitting together on the right side of the sanctuary.
The congregations that offer a separate Shabbat service are focusing on meeting the young adults where they are (downtown Shabbat Service) and then connecting them back to the synagogue. Many young adults do enjoy a service with a lot of music; therefore Shabbat Unplugged has been very successful at bringing hundreds of 20s and 30s into the synagogue.
A few thoughts on why young adults are attending the Family service and not the "regular" service: If the service starts earlier this will make a difference. Many congregations that are successful at reaching young adults start services between 6--7:00 P.M.
If you're interested in learning more about reaching out to young adults, please take a look at: