Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Torah Yoga!

Forget the "Kiddush Club....now you can get TORAH COCKTAIL PARTIES! AT: A hipster synagogue grows in SoHo, drawing large crowds with its "Torah cocktail parties" in fancy loft apartments and user-friendly prayer services designed especially for the uninitiated.A group of New York-area congregations, along with others across the country, refashion their synagogues into religious multiplexes on the Sabbath, featuring programs like "Shabbat yoga" and comedy alongside traditional worship. Several synagogues on Long Island — as well as in Seattle, Tucson and elsewhere — station volunteers in supermarket aisles as part of a national program that started several years ago to reach out to Jews who are buying matzos for Passover but do not belong to a house of worship.These are just some of the ways that Jewish religious leaders, driven by fears about shrinking numbers, are becoming increasingly sophisticated and aggressive about marketing Judaism, turning to the same kinds of outreach techniques that evangelical Christians rode to mega-church success.In some cases, Jewish groups are explicitly borrowing from the evangelical playbook to reach those who do not attend synagogue; in others, the parallels have been largely coincidental. Although the efforts to market Judaism have drawn criticism from some corners, Jewish leaders across the theological spectrum are realizing what evangelicals have long concluded, that the faithful are easily distracted in America's spiritual marketplace and religious institutions have to adjust if they hope to survive. "I think what's going on is a product of the consumer-driven nature of this culture and the need to compete for people's time and attention," said Jack Wertheimer, provost and professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. "Christians do it from the imperative of evangelizing. Jews are doing it far more because they see their community shrinking........
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