What is Jewish religious renewal?

Jewish Religious Renewal is individual Jewish people taking responsibility for their own religious Lives. 

Most American Jewish congregations employ one or more Rabbis. In many communities Rabbis may read the Torah, lead prayers and provide pastoral counseling. Rabbis also officiate at life cycle functions. But for most of these activities, congregations do not need a Rabbi.

There is no requirement to have a Rabbi present at a Jewish service. All that is required is a minyan of 10 adults (10 adult males in some congregations).

There is a need for a better understanding in the Jewish community of the role of the Rabbi. A Rabbi is a professional, but has no special relationship with God. The only required role for a Rabbi is to be a teacher and authority on Jewish law, and only on matters of Jewish law are congregants required to defer to a Rabbi’s opinion.

Does the presence of Rabbis and other clergy encourage congregants to be lazy? Do congregants look to their clergy as professional Jews who pray, study, observe and lead so that congregants don’t have to take responsibility for their own religious lives?

Jewish Religious Renewal is one attempt to answer this question. There are many Jewish communities that operate successfully without full-time clergy. These congregations are commonly found in the Chavurah and other Jewish Religious Renewal movements, but some exist in small towns.

These congregations may conduct services year-round. In the absence of professional clergy, the more experienced members guide-and teach newcomers.

As individuals take more responsibility for their own religious lives, they may begin to see themselves as creating their own “Jewish Religious Renewal.”

About the Author
Charles Edwin Myers is a retired scientist.
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