As I look at all the reform and conservative synagogues I see the common issues, with some being worse than others. Not much participation, a much older crowd, few (if any) young families, lack of events and programs, and if there are programs they are basically offered at times that works best for senior citizens. The social media posts especially highlight this because you can see how few attend and how much older everyone is.
Of course there are ones that are still thriving like the conservative synagogue in Teaneck (most of the people that attend are faculty, former faculty, staff, etc of JTS and conservative Judaism organization …most of the kids there attend Jewish day school) and the conservative synagogue in Closter that has put money in revitalizing themselves over 10 years ago.
The reform synagogue that opened up in Oradell from the merging and closure of 2 reform synagogues in Closter and Washington Township talked a lot about being different and attracting millennials but seems to have just reverted back to being run like a regular synagogue that is always begging for finances in order to survive. One of the members of the one that closed in Closter wrote a whole page about it – https://templesinaidc.org/2019/07/01/the-death-of-my-temple/
Some of the reform synagogues are still using politics and social action in trying to attract people and have had talks of doing more collaboration with other reform synagogues , and some conservative synagogues are doing the same with no success to show for it. The conservative synagogues in Teaneck and Closter for example have not gone that route. The JCC of Paramus have not gone that route but also have done nothing to change their very senior membership.
As you can see Jewish life is a mess here unless you are orthodox or go to Chabad. There are Chabads all over and several new ones that have opened up.
Chabad is nice but my belief structure is more in aligned with conservative, so since moving into this area I’ve tried to figure it out.
So what’s going on? With such a high Jewish population shouldn’t the Hebrew schools be full of kids? Shouldn’t there be more people participating? Or is it just the poor luck of the county that these many synagogues are just bad? I can see why Chabad is seeing this as opportunities for growth.
I’m going to check out the conservative synagogue in Closter but Bergen County is overall a disappointment. Just a heads up if you plan on living here. Make sure you find a synagogue first!