04 October 2017

Rabbi David Ellenson on the Changing Dynamics of American Jewish Life: An Invitation for Discussion Week 1

Written by Rabbi Brian Stoller


As a way to start the conversation in advance of my official Installation and Rabbi David Ellenson's visit, the eTidings will feature some of Rabbi Ellenson’s insights and commentaries about the changing dynamics of American Jewish life, and provide a forum for discussion.  I invite you to take a few minutes to read Rabbi Ellenson’s teachings and participate in the conversation by sharing your thoughts. 

-Rabbi Stoller

Week 1

Rabbi David Ellenson, “Denominationalism”

Ours is a world of niche markets and customer customization. People coalesce around interests and values, not institutions. People seek personalization rather than institutional affiliation. No wonder numbers in denominations have declined. Synagogues and movements need to respond to these changed realities. They need to reach out to people beyond the synagogue in informal settings where people gather, like coffee shops and shopping malls. They also need to find ways of fostering participation and engagement in the community without insisting on the payment of membership dues...

The challenge that confronts them is how to make Judaism relevant, compelling, joyous, meaningful, welcoming, comforting, and challenging to American Jews who, “as sovereign selves,” have infinite options open before them. Both within and beyond denominations we must ask boldly whether Judaism can succeed in doing this for large numbers of Jews.

Discussion Question:

What do you think Temple Israel can do to make Judaism compelling, relevant, and engaging for more people?

About the Author

Rabbi Brian Stoller

Rabbi Brian Stoller

Rabbi Stoller - Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Stoller grew up in Houston, TX, and attended The University of Texas where he received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Honors Business Program & Finance in 1996. After graduation, he first worked as a Political Consultant and Hill Consultants in Houston and then serviced as Press Secretary for U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (IL), Washington, DC. Rabbi Stoller has stated, “Seven years in politics is enough to drive you to God. That is my short explanation for why I left my career as a U.S. Senate press secretary to become a rabbi – although, in truth, there is a lot more to the story. While politics can certainly be disillusioning, I see my journey from the Capitol to the rabbinate as a personal spiritual evolution toward a fuller, more authentic version of myself, a deeper engagement with things that really matter, and the realization of my destiny to be a teacher and spiritual guide to others.”

Rabbi Stoller was previously the associate rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim (BJBE), Deerfield, IL. He served at BJBE since 2008 when he was ordained as a rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, OH, where he is currently also a Ph.D. Candidate in Rabbinics.

Rabbi Stoller is married to Karen Flayhart and they have two children, Lindsay (7) and Zachary (3). For enjoyment, Rabbi Stoller likes cycling and is learning to play ukulele with his daughter along with learning to read German.

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