Perhaps the most poignant tragedy of American Jewish life is the incessant institutional turf wars. Your report on tensions between the Boca Raton Jewish community center and neighboring synagogues over High Holiday programs highlights this disheartening trend (“JCC, Synagogues In Holy War In Boca,” Sept. 3).
However, rather than synagogues seeing JCCs as competitors, they should be viewed as allies with congregations in the struggle to sustain a vibrant Jewish diaspora. JCCs reach many unaffiliated Jewish families. They can be an entry point for meaningful Jewish connections leading to exploration of a local synagogue. JCCs can potentially support congregational capacity building and access to resources. For example, in Staten Island, the JCC has shepherded into existence the newly formed Office of Jewish Community Affairs. Grounded in the historic Kehilah model, it promotes area synagogue activities and acts as a convener and connector for rabbis, lay leaders, and most importantly, those seeking a connection to Jewish living. The Staten Island JCC also cooperates with local synagogues and other Jewish organizations by jointly sponsoring programs.
In a period of decreasing affiliation and much-needed organizational synergies, it is not only incumbent upon our non-congregational agencies to support synagogues, but also that our synagogues open up to new structural ways of looking at the communal universe.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Unger
Executive Director, Office of Jewish Community Affairs and Professor of Government and Politics Wagner College
Jewish Community Center of Staten Island