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Rick Warren’s Mega-Synagogue

Do you think Rick Warren, the author of the “Purpose Driven Life” and super duper mega-church leader, knew the joke about two Jews and three opinions when he sat down to consult Synagogue 3000 on how to attract more Jews to synagogues , maybe? Nonetheless, as they say, ignorance is bliss and most important, it’s nice to hear about an evangelical minister helping Jews to become more Jewish. We need more of that.

The idea of mega-synagogues with yoga workshops, banjo-playing Jewish rock stars leading mussaf service, and Rick Warren-styled rabbis preaching to 10,000 overworked, overeducated, and over-purpose-driven Jews would sure be a sight to see.


But more seriously, the idea of a mega-synagogue gets to the heart of a great new Jewish question: What is heresy in the 21st century? Is it apathy or deviancy?

Synagogue 3000 answers that question with an unequivocal chant of “apathy.” To be honest, for years now the Chabad movement of the Lubavitch Hasidic group has been giving that answer. While Chabad offers a good bowl of chulent and schnapps, Synagogue 3000 offers meditation, healing, and music. In response to the fear of no one coming to synagogue, Synagogue 3000 is offering a whole smorgasbord of different 21st-century programs to bring people back to the pews.

To be honest, I dread the day that a DJ overtakes the cantor and a cheerleader becomes the rabbi, but I am even more scared of the day that no one even shows up to synagogue.

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posted April 5, 2006 at 3:03 am

This really surprises me; you would think an evangelical would try to bring the Jews into the churches, not the synogogue. (I don’t say that to be mean to evangelicals; I fully understand the desire to bring others to your faith, no matter what religion.) I don’t know if this is part of the whole support-Israel type thing or if he really thinks this will help peoples’ souls, but power to him, I suppose. God bless!

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posted April 6, 2006 at 12:52 am

I feel like a mega-synagogue is better than nothing, and if it actually succeeds in attracting people to go, than more power to it. BUT we should also be asking ourselves about the value of attracting people to a watered-down, feel-good spin on Judaism and a “no-boredom-allowed” version of the synagogue experience. I’m not a fan of the (frequently) simplistic, insubstantial approach that evangelical churches take in their attempt to be as user-friendly and non-denominational as possible. Also, I think we sacrifice a lot of our integrity by trying to please everyone and by being so “scared of the day that no one even shows up to synagogue” that we basically sell out to the feel-good wave of American life. It IS important to show people why Judaism is relevant, and why going to shul is relevant, but NOT at the expense of flinging tradition, liturgy, etc. out the window. If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

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melissa lawhorn

posted April 6, 2006 at 6:28 am

ibelieve this is the most powerfrul thought and and mission in the world of peace and divine. every prayer i have ever wanted too share with my peers is in one sentance , will i ever meet these people like me.. thank you melissa

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Shawn Landres

posted April 6, 2006 at 8:23 am

For what it’s worth — and it’s quite important to us — S3K’s statement of purpose includes the following:

…We seek to make synagogues compelling moral and spiritual centers sacred communities for the twenty-first century. …Sacred communities are those where relationships with God and with each other define everything the synagogue does; where ritual is engaging; where Torah suffuses all we do; where social justice is a moral imperative; and where membership is about welcoming and engaging both the committed and the unaffiliated. …We stand for spirituality beyond ethnicity, Judaism as a life-long journey beyond the pediatric and the geriatric; community beyond corporation; and commitment beyond consumerism. Success for us is when synagogues develop deeper relationships with their members rather than simply offering more programs. (Emphasis added.)

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posted April 7, 2006 at 10:51 pm

Just a comment: Chabad and Lubavitch are synonymous; Chabad is an acronym for the three sefirot Chochma, Binah and Da’as, as contrasted with other Chasidic groups.

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Marc Feldstein

posted April 8, 2006 at 11:21 pm

Hi, Although I belong to a somewhat large Reform congregation in the Chicago area, and also dread the idea of under-utilized/under-attended congregations, the idea of a mega-house of worship is disconcerting to me. Judaism places a significant emphasis on community, which I would argue is hard to find among 10,000 people you may not know. To be sure, at large congregations, the concept of chavurot or small groups of congregants helps ease this idea of unfamiliarity, but still if 10,000 attend weekly (we should be so lucky to approach a small portion of such numbers consistently) the High Holy Days would proove to be daunting. Although it would help to see an increase in synagogue affiliation and participation, a mega-Temple is not the way to go.

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posted April 9, 2006 at 5:03 am

The two problems I blatenly see for why there are few jews in the pews is 1) because those of us that are poor or mid income just cannot afford the dues. And, no, I am not going to show my W-2 to some committee so I can get slid down on dues. That is embarrasing. The other problem I have and most of my friends is that we come to temple and no one talks to us. People are basically unfriendly. We do not feel welcome. That is my take on the subject.

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posted April 9, 2006 at 6:23 pm

I love the idea of yoga in the synagogue. I wish we had it where I live!

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posted April 28, 2006 at 11:57 pm

Throughout many parts of the world including many of our own parts there is a widespread assumption that Jews either “control” or have “undue influence over” (depending how sophisticated your anti-Semitism is) the media. (Hey, you re reading this blog, so you know it s true!) lol Thank you for your blog. I appreciate it.

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guess who

posted October 17, 2006 at 3:19 pm

that article was useless!

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Living Hope In Jesus

posted March 8, 2007 at 2:47 am


posted July 1, 2007 at 8:40 am

Just wondered if anybody can help me to ascertain how synagoga became a means of identifying Jews. Are there any biblical refs.

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