Synagogues: Challenges & Opportunities In the Face of Trends and Technology
The Contours of Our Jewish Community: Snapshots from the 2018 Population Study
Editor’s Note: Each week, the Jewish News will offer insights into the findings of the 2018 Detroit Jewish Population Study with the intent of stimulating discussion about its potential meaning and impact.
Historically, one measure of a strong Jewish community is synagogue membership. Synagogues have been the spiritual, educational and emotional epicenter for Jewish continuity — where lifecycle events are celebrated, children are educated, adults are engaged in lifelong learning, community rallies are held, where funds are raised for worthy causes and Israel bonds sold.
In recent decades, demographic and technological trends nationally and in Detroit have impacted the role of synagogues and traditional models of membership. Growing assimilation and intermarriage rates, geographic dispersion and new models of online learning that require no membership dues or bricks-and-mortar facilities are among the challenges.
The 2018 Detroit Jewish Population Study found that 39.2 percent of our 31,500 Jewish households are synagogue members. Though about average when compared to 45 other American Jewish community studies, the 2005 Detroit Jewish Population study revealed that 50 percent of our community’s 30,000 Jewish households reported synagogue membership (a decline of about 22 percent).
Among households with children, the 2018 study reveals that 52 percent have synagogue membership. This compares with 71 percent in 2005 (a decline of about 27 percent). And while 39 percent of Detroit households under the age of 35 report synagogue membership in 2018 — above average compared to other communities similarly studied — 57 percent of this age group reported synagogue membership in 2005 (a decline of about 32 percent).
Temple Israel 3,314 3,500
Temple Beth El 1,059 1,295
Shir Shalom 980 975
Temple Emanu-el 355 575
Kol Ami 290 380
Shir Tikvah 290 346
Shaarey Zedek 1,100 1,861
Adat Shalom 988 1,045
B’nai Moshe 400 468
Beth Ahm 367 315
Isaac Agree/Downtown 275 50
Beth Shalom 241 531
B’nai Israel 115 0
Young Israel – Oak Park 200 204
The Shul – Chabad 200 128
Chabad – Commerce 150 50
Young Israel- Southfield 135 125
Woodward Avenue Shul 100 0
Chabad – West Bloomfield 100 120
Agudas Yisroel/Magen Abraham 115 82
Dovid Ben Nuchim 105 15
Kollel/B’nai Jacob 100 75
- Many synagogues were constructed to accommodate larger numbers of member families. Can some congregations better serve existing members and attract new ones without their current physical facilities? Even if it means closing, moving or merging with other congregations?
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