I spent it with Temple Beth Tikvah in Bend, Oregon. I'd been hired to provide Shabbat music for Friday and Saturday services by the family of a boy who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah this weekend. It was my first visit to Bend proper and my first time doing anything Jewish in central Oregon.
The community is lovely, about 80-85 families, with a wonderful rabbi and a very hamish, caring vibe. They made me feel very welcome! I look forward to returning to this community in three weeks to provide Shabbat music again.
During my visit, I had a chance to hang out with, respectively, the Rabbi and the music coordinator (the synagogue does not have a resident cantorial soloist, and contracts with cantorial soloists and songleaders from elsewhere to come in for special events -- like Shabbat services that include B'nei Mitzvah celebrations). Over the course of lengthy, friendly conversation, I learned a lot about the history of Bend's Jewish community and how the synagogue got started. I was also able to have a blessedly open and honest conversation with the Rabbi about the future of communal Judaism. She and I agree that it's evolving; our grandchildren will likely turn it into something else that will no longer resemble the old-school, brick-and-mortar synagogue model. Being Jewish, "doing" Jewish, will mean and look like something else. In the meantime, there are already evolutionary pains being felt as communities strive to grow and change and remain viable. It was great to talk so candidly with someone else who gets that communal Judaism is evolving and that we all need to adapt.
That adaptation won't happen without some sacrifice, without some real pain, as Jewish professionals find they may well return to a standard of living known 150 years ago -- when clergy had day jobs because the Rabbinate had not been quite so professionalized and fewer Jews were so prosperous. Jewish families with expectations of things like sleep-away camp and trips to Israel may have to readjust their expectations as the economy continues to shift towards an individual contractor model where it really is every man for himself. A downside of this is that the system on which I currently depend for my livelihood as a performing and teaching Jewish artist may approach a time when it can no longer pay me to do this work. An upside of this is that it could force local communities to become stronger and more close-knit, so we do a better job of looking out for each other on a down-to-earth, practical level. I'd find something else to do, I guess.
Or maybe it isn't as bad as all that.
But I don't know, because those discussions are mostly happening behind closed doors.
I think they need to happen in public. I think we all need to consider the possibilities of a Jewish future in which we all return to a simpler, smaller-scale way of life -- and consider how our Jewish identity will adapt along the way. Having those discussions openly, honestly, and on a truly community-wide scale, can only help all of us. it's time for those of us who serve Jewish communities -- and everyone we serve -- to get real and consider our future -- to shape our future rather than to be shaped by it.
Shavua Tov! -- a good week!