Kol Nidre Sermon

Sometimes it feels that life is passing us by. New technology, for example, seems to pop up everyday. Ipods, Blackberrys, digital cameras, and other such gadgets are supposed to make life easier. And I only just got used to my electric typewriter!

But more important than technology is the feeling that trends in the community are quickly changing. When I was growing up, it seemed as if the Jewish community was overwhelmingly supportive of the State of Israel and its policies. Especially in war-time, the American Jewish community could always be counted on. But now that's not the case. Alternative organizations such as the lobbying group - JStreet - and the human rights group - Rabbis for Human Rights - both support Israel and openly question some of its policies. No longer is the American Jewish community solidly behind Israel.

When I was growing up it also seemed to me that most Jews were members of a synagogue. Everyone went to Hebrew School and synagogues kept growing. Now that's not the case. The affiliation rate is only 40% and there are lots of independent "minyanim" meant to attract young Jews who have been turned off by synagogue life.

When I was in Rabbinical school I felt that my perspective on Jewish law - halacha - was moderate. I felt that there were just as many rabbis who were more conservative than I as there were rabbis more liberal. Now it seems that my perspective hasn't changed but I am considered to be among the more conservative.

How do we respond when we feel that the world is changing around us? It may be easier to just ignore the trends and keep on doing what we feel comfortable with. It's easier to hide and maintain the staus quo.

But responding is absolutely necessary for survival. Synagogues need to be creative to attract new members. Outreach efforts must be made and creative financial models must be developed in order to survive and thrive in the new Jewish community. As a rabbi, I have to be creative too in rethinking my perspective on halacha and the types of religious services I can offer. Once we have our new building I can foresee a variety of services being offered on shabbat that would include musical instruments or other non-traditional formats.

Is change necessary? Absolutely. Maintaining the status quo may be comfortable, but we don't grow. As human beings our purpose is to find meaning in life every day. We can only do that if we open ourselves to new ideas. Judaism could only have survived the destruction of the Temple by being creative. The rabbis made Judaism portable and synagogue oriented instead of dependent on sacrifices in the Temple. Not all trends and not all ideas are necessarily good or worthwhile. But we need to be open to examining them and to be willing to apply the positive elements into our lives.

May this coming year be one of growth and renewal.