Jonathan Sarna, Mark Raider: Small-City Congregations Try to Preserve Rituals of Jewish Life

Roger Ackerman, 78, prodded his aging congregation at Temple Sinai in Sumter, S.C., to create a living will that includes a maintenance plan for its cemetery.

Source:  NYT, 12-1-10

…According to Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, most Jews in the United States have migrated from small communities to large cities: he estimates that 85 percent of the country’s 5.2 million Jews live in 20 metropolitan areas, primarily on the East and West Coasts and in Sun Belt states.

Mr. Sarna estimates there are 150 to 200 communities across the country that could benefit from the project’s help.

The process of dismantling a community, experts say, is fraught with potential tensions involving both purse and heartstrings. Mark A. Raider, a professor of modern Jewish history at the University of Cincinnati, cited disagreements over disposition of material assets.

“Where there’s money, real estate and other significant resources, there tends to be differing and often opposing views about who should control it,” Dr. Raider said.

Rabbi Mychal Springer, director of the Center for Pastoral Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, says the project will have to deal with “extraordinary sensitivity on the part of all people involved.”

“When a community is shutting its doors and making decisions about what should be,” Rabbi Springer said, “some people let go sooner and others hold on longer. There can be a lot of angst, disagreement and regret….READ MORE

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