A half-year ago, I posted about suburban religion and its turning of the house of worship into a cruise ship. Well now the OU has officially designed a entertaining Orthodoxy with all social events on board.
It has turned the church from an “ocean-liner” designed to move people from point A to point B (connecting people with God), to a “cruise ship” that is, in itself, the destination. One need never disembark because it contains everything
It is a continuation of Disney-ization of Faith:magic moments, theme park, kitsch, and entertainment.
If you google “Synagogue Transformation” you see that it was the buzz word for the last decade in liberal congregations. The successful STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal) brought in a variety of parallel programs called The Synaplex Initiative. Similar efforts were done by Synagogue 3000 and the United Synagogue. But they claimed to be doing something new. Here we have the OU claiming that turning the Orthodox synagogue is not a new act or transformation “rather to inspire a shul to become what it always was supposed to be.”
The director states “If there’s a book out there that relates to synagogue growth in any way, I’ll read it,” This means, and the language of this announcement shows, that he read all the books by the liberal movements and the Mega Church Evangelicals.
Shavuot night moves from an evening of Torah study to a midnight BBQ, one creates a Menorah Building Contest, a Latke Cook-Off; and a great debate on the Maccabees.
Or one creates a Rock and Roll Shabbaton as the director of Wings does. (flier)
Who Roger Daltrey of THE WHO
Joshua Nelson Rock Gospel Chazan
David Fishof – Producer of VH1 Rock N’ Roll Fantasy Camp
Elan Atias – Lead Singer of Bob Marley and The Wailers
Ellen Foley – “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” Co Singer
There will also be a Comedy Shabbaton in the upcoming weeks.
I guess this is what an Orthodox Synagogue was “Always supposed to be.” This will be the new model of Centrist synagogue, more like the entertainment mega-Church.
Just as synagogues provide the spiritual means for their congregations to soar, the Orthodox Union, in one of its newest and most ambitious initiatives, has established the WINGS program to guide the synagogues themselves to rise to new heights. WINGS… is an acronym for “We Inspire New Growth Synagogues,” with “new growth” referring to shuls of any age or size, as long as they have the outlook and attitude to be inspired – and to soar.
“The title ‘we inspire’ is meant to reflect just that,” declared Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, the rabbi of Manhattan’s West Side Institutional Synagogue, who is Project Director of Wings. “We’re not claiming we can transform a shul, but rather to inspire a shul to become what it always was supposed to be.”
In the five years since he arrived at the West Side Institutional Synagogue, Shabbat morning attendance has increased from 12 to over 300. “It’s been going amazing there,” Rabbi Einhorn says. He came with the background to build a congregation. “I’ve been watching rabbis and shuls since I was a kid, observing what shuls do wrong and what shuls do right,” he explained.
Rabbi Einhorn has supplemented his first-hand knowledge with intensive study. “If there’s a book out there that relates to synagogue growth in any way, I’ll read it,” he says, adding that he’s already read more than 1,000 books on the subject. “The content of what I give comes from taking a lot of time listening to a lot of shuls, hearing their struggles and their challenges, how they face them and how they respond to these challenges.”
For example, for each holiday WINGS compiles a listing of best practices. For Chanukah, suggestions included a Family Friday Night, a Carnival, a Creative Menorah Building Contest, a Latke Cook-Off; and a great debate on the Maccabees.
This is all connected to the book HOLY IGNORANCE By Olivier Roy, which was reviewed by Alan Wolfe in today’s NYT book review. (subscription required). Roy claims that today’s Evangelical and Orthodox religions are themselves secularized into the consumer market. No one is going back to the Bible rather into ever newer consumer cultural forms. Much of Centrist Orthodoxy is moving forward by ever greater identification with consumer religion. True frumkeit will be determined by whether one takes part in these cruise ship entertainments.
Every winter Fox News, seeking to stir up anger through the land, uncovers evidence of a war on Christmas. Secular humanists ignorant of religion and hostile to its traditions, someone in the studio will declare, want us to say “Happy Holiday” or give Kwanzaa equal standing. But Christmas, as its name suggests, is about Christ. These enemies of Christianity will stop at nothing to get their way. Not even Santa Claus is sacred to them.
Actually, as the brilliant French social scientist Olivier Roy points out in “Holy Ignorance,” it is those defending Christmas who are not being true to their traditions and teachings. There are no Christmas dinners in the Bible, which is why America’s Puritans, strict adherents of what that venerated text offers, never sat down by the raging fire awaiting St. Nick; indeed, they briefly banned Christmas in Massachusetts.
Yule as we celebrate it today owes more to Charles Dickens than to Thomas Aquinas. Our major solstice holiday is what Roy calls a “cultural construct” rather than a sectarian ceremony, which explains why Muslims buy halal turkeys and Jews transformed Hanukkah into a gift-giving occasion. Mistakenly believing that Christmas is sacred, those who defend it find themselves propping up the profane. The Christ they want in Christmas is a product not of Nazareth but of Madison Avenue.
Over the past few years, a number of theories have been offered about the rise of fundamentalism. Roy proposes the most original — and the most persuasive. Fundamentalism, in his view, is a symptom of, rather than a reaction against, the increasing secularization of society.