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November 8, 2013     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 8, 2013

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PAGE 12A By Uriel Heilman (JTA)-- Maria Topp of Tem- ple Judea Mizpah in Skokie, Ill., doesn't need survey data to tell her that Reform Juda- ism is in decline and Orthodox Judaism is growing. She has to look no further than her own synagogue. A couple of months ago, the temple began renting out unused classroom space to an Orthodox school that had outgrown its building. Now its classrooms serve as a satellite location for the Arie Crown Hebrew Day HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 8, 2013 i With vacant space, Conservative and Reform temples turn to Orthodox School's early childhood program. The Orthodox preschool isn't the temple's first ten- ant. Once a flourishing suburban Chicago shul of 500 families, Judea Mizpah has seen its membership fall to 180 families, and the temple began renting out vacant space more than a decade ago, according to Topp, the executive director. The average Friday night service --the synagogue's best attended --usually draws 50 to 100 worshipers. In September, the religious YER * , :iii!i!iii I Silver. Daniel i 407-831-8544 :i 2 Development Corporation for Israel Israel Bonds t 2600 South Belcher Road, Suite 101A ISRAE Li! BONDS .................. Largo, Florida 33773 Reva Pearlslein Monica DiGiovanni Ass;fanf Director Registered Repesefrafive 727-539-6445 = 800-622-8017 school scaled back from two days a week to one. "As the demographics of our area have changed, our membership has shrunk and we needed to find revelnue to keep going," Topp told JTA. "Young families affiliatedwith the Reform movement are fewer and farther between." Throughout the country, a growing number of Reform and Conservative synagogues find themselves in similar situations. This year, the Reform Temple Israel in New Rochelle, N.Y., began renting space to a new low-budget Orthodox "day school, Westchester To- rah Academy. Three years ago, Beth El Congregation in courtesy Torah Day School Torah Day School, an Orthodox school in Phoenix, is located in a Conservative syna- gogue, Beth E1 Congregation. tampa@israelbonds.corn | Phoenix, Ariz., began renting space to Torah Day School, a strictly Orthodox school that separates boys and girls beginning in kindergarten. Hoilis Hills Jewish Center, a Conservative synagogue in Queens, N.Y., leases space to an Orthodox school called Yeshiva Primary. While not new, the trend appears to be gaining steam as a growing number of Reform and Conservative synagogues find themselves with dwin- dling constituencies, declin- ing membership income and excess space, and as Orthodox institutions seek more room to accommodate their growth. Writ large, the phenom- enon tells the story of con- temporary American Jewry. Conservative and Reform Jews still significantly outnumber Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Private Lessons & Services Flexible Schedule, Temple Membership Not Required Service in Hotel, Catering Hall or Your Home Rabbi Sanford Olshansky Orthodox Jews, but the Or- thodox are gaining. Thirty-five percent of American Jews identify as Reform and 18 percent as Conservative, but Reform and Conservative Jews have fewer than two children on aver- age, 1.8 and 1.7 respectively, according to the recent Pew Research Center's survey of U.S. Jews. Only 10 percent of Jews identify as Orthodox, ac- cording to the study, but they average 4.1 children. The median age of Conser- vative and Reform Jews is 55 and 54, respectively. Among the Orthodox, it's 40. And only 17 percent of Reform and 39 percent of Conservative Jews say they attend synagogue at least once a month, compared to 74 percent of the Orthodox. Leaders of Conservative or Reform communities see these trends when they look into their pews, which for the most part are emptier and their occupants older than they used to be. In the past 20 years, both the Union for Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conser- vative Judaism have reported declines in the number of affiliated synagogues and synagogue members. "Fewer people are affiliat- ing with congregations," said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. "Pretty much everything has to be reexamined in terms of Jewish life and how we practice and how we lead," he said. "The fundamental of Reform Judaism is to adapt to new circumstances and new situations." For some Reform and Conservative synagogues, that means reinventing them- selves as homes for Orthodox Jews. Temple Emeth, a Reform synagogue in Teaneck, N.J., has kept its early childhood program thriving by retool- ing it for Orthodox kids, who outnumber Reform students three to one. The school now offers morning prayers and has shifted winter break from Christmas week to late January, when area Orthodox yeshivas go on vacation. "Our demographics are similar to other Reform synagogues," said the temple's rabbi, Steven Sirbu. "We have a challenge." But Sirbu says he still views the preschool as a net gain-- not so much for the revenue it generates as for the bridges it builds between Reform and Orthodox Jews. "In other communities, Reform Judaism is a total mystery to Oxthodox Jews, but in our community we've provided this bridge," Sirbu told JTA. "We have hundreds of young people who call me, a reform rabbi, 'Rabbi,' and we have hundreds of Ortho- dox families who have been in our sanctuary and have fond memories of our Reform congregation." In Phoenix, decliningmem- bership at the Conservative Beth El has been driven in part by the ,migration of liberal Jews to the Scottsdale suburbs: The synagogue used to be home to a Solomon Schechter day school, but the school moved, later became a nondenominational Jewish day school and eventually closed. Meanwhile, Torah Day School, the Orthodox school that rents space in Beth El, has ballooned to 180 students from about 0 three years ago and is so starved for space that it's erecting six mobile trail- ers to add 12 classrooms. The synagogue also leases space to a tiny Orthodox minyan and, on Saturday afternoons, rents out its sanctuary to a Sabbath- observant church. Beth El's Rabbi Arthur Lavinsky says it's clear the synagogue was built for n? other era. "Many of the synagogues that were built in the mid-last century --and this is certainly one of them--were built with certain membership sizes in mind," he said. "With migra- tion to the suburbs, these buildings in many instances are way too big for the cur- rent needs, both in terms of upkeep and usage. It's really a mitzvah to provide space to other religious grouls. "We're one people. To the extent that we can help 'each other, that is a very good thing." And wit.h declining in- come from membership dues, Lavinsky added, !'It helps our bottom line, too." Serving Orange, Seminole & Osceola Countie's www 321-704-0702 ' Anti-lsrael billboards mislead the public BOSTON (JPR)--The Anti- Defamation League (ADL) described an anti-Israel bill- board campaign appearing throughout the Massachu- setts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) System as,"intention- ally designed to mislead the public." The billboards show a series of four maps and falsely claim that Israel has system- atically confiscated land from the Palestinians. The ads, which began appearing last week, are sponsored by Henry Clifford, who co-chairs the virulently anti-Israel group Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine. "These billboards are in- tentionally designed to mis- lead the public;" said Robert Trestan, ADL New England regional director. "They are a part of an ongoing anti-Israel campaign that distorts the issues by oversimplifying the facts surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leaving out such critical details as the history prior to 1946 and Israel's willing- ness to compromise for peace both through an exchange of land and developing a two-state solution with the Palestinians." Trestan added that "Debate about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and its resolution should be encouraged. Misleading ad campaigns pander to emo- tions and interfere with a serous conversation based on accurate facts." The billboards feature four maps of Palestine/Israel from 1946 through 2010 and attempt to display the expan- sion of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. In 2012 The Anti-Defamation League of New York responded to the same ads found in Westchester Train Stations, explaining that,"The billboards attempt to showcase that all of Israel was owned by Palestinians pre-1948 when, in reality, much of the land was owned by non-Palestinian absentee landlords who lived in Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut." The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organiza- tion fighting anti-Semitism through programs and ser- vices that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.