Having read the recently-published Pittsburgh Federation’s 2017 Jewish Community Study and this paper’s coverage of the same, I want to weigh in with a few observations (“Jewish Pittsburgh growing, but denominational affiliation dropping,” Feb. 23).
Given the changing face of our community — namely larger numbers of Jews in the aggregate with fewer folks affiliated with non-Orthodox “bricks and mortar” congregations — I believe now is the time for Reform and Conservative congregations’ lay and professional leadership to join one another as partners to discuss in a serious, rational and non-emotional way the future of our shared enterprise. We can hardly afford to tarry.
There is, after all, no denying that the ever-increasing costs of running congregations, coupled with a decline in our respective membership rolls across the board, augurs poorly for a belief that individual congregations can continue to meet the challenges we face better than if all of us are willing to strategize and work collaboratively. We need one another now.
What’s more, as a generation of leaders who have led congregations through recent decades of growth retire or begin to look to retirement, as every one of our congregations face the same demographic, sociological and economic challenges, and as altogether new generational models of Jewish communal organizing proliferate, it is more pressing than ever that our leaders prioritize looking past an exclusive focus on our respective, individual congregations’ needs and opt instead to come together to address the collective needs of Pittsburgh’s liberal Jewish community as a whole.
The trends we face as a community are inexorable, and a failure on the part of our communal leadership to take these realities seriously is inexcusable. The facts are clear, and the future — though different than we may have imagined (or wish were so) — is full of possibility and remains ours to embrace and to shape.
But it will only be so if we are unafraid to come together to solve what ails us.
Rabbi Aaron B. Bisno
Frances F. and David R. Levin Senior Rabbinic Pulpit
Rodef Shalom Congregation