Synagogue Membership: Young Adults


As the 21st Century approaches, Reform Judaism faces both a challenge and an obligation. There has been a decline in temple affiliation by young adults after the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Some years ago, young adults married upon graduation from college, started families, and almost immediately, reconnected with the Jewish religious community. Today young adults marry later, defer starting families, and often do not affiliate with a congregation until their children reach school age, if then.

We are challenged to halt this decline and to bring young adults back into our synagogues. Current programs such as the Access Card and the Privilege Card, are examples of efforts to meet the challenge. Our concern for the future obliges us to do more. We must radically transform perceptions, ours and theirs. We must demonstrate a sense of caring and concern for our young adults and encourage their participation in our temple programs and services.

Congregations can grant a form of membership to young adults in the years immediately after they leave school for a period of years until they can be expected to affiliate on their own initiative. In the alternative, co ngregations can consider a form of connection consistent with the congreg ations' needs and with the goal of encouraging active participation by young adults in the life of the congregations. Such actions will guarantee that young Jewish adults, whether students or members of the job force, will be affiliated with congregations for the duration of the most formative years of their lives. But their affiliation must be more than a token gesture; congregations must provide programs for these new members who live in the community as well as a system of connection with those who leave their homes for college.

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations can assist by identifying and making known successful programs, wherever they exist, for involving young adults in Jewish life. Also the new proportional dues program for congr egations to be presented at the 1997 Biennial Assembly can have substantial impact on the receptivity of congregations to any program which extends congregational membership without requiring the payment of congregational dues.

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

1. Urge congregations to grant to young adults at the time of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah or confirmation membership in their congregations or a form of continuing connection that encourages their active participation;

2. Collect and disseminate to congregations models of successful programs for involving young adults in congregational life; and

3. Ask the Dues Policy Review Committee, in formulating a new proportional dues program to present to the 1997 Biennial Assembly, to consider a dues structure that will encourage congregations to be inclusive in granting congregational membership to young adults and others without adding to their financial burdens.