Revolutionary approach offers spirituality from the comfort of the couch
TORONTO, ON – As individuals and families increasingly balance work, social commitments, and competing interests both online and offline, traditional activities – including worship in religious institutions – are being left behind.
But according to a recent Angus Reid Institute survey, people still want spirituality in their lives: just 19% claim to be non-believers, while 30% say they are privately faithful and 30% are spiritually uncertain.
SecularSynagogue.com, an online community launching this fall, aims to reach these people and help them integrate spirituality into their lives on a regular basis by bringing spiritual and cultural lessons into homes instead of requiring people to go out to congregations.
Members of the online secular synagogue will have access to a website featuring materials for do-it-yourself Shabbat and High Holidays celebrations, parenting resources, Jewish scavenger hunts and more. A private Facebook group will offer members the opportunity to interact with the community through challenges, opportunities for joint social justice work, interviews with experts and thinkers on a range of topics, video-based Jewish learning and more.
“With SecularSynagogue.com, my aim is to build a modern congregation that recognizes the challenges of our fast-paced world, but also gives people the spiritual guidance they still crave,” says Rabbi Denise Handlarski, who trained in the Secular Humanistic Judaism movement that positions Judaism through the lens of a human-centred understanding of the world.
“There are so many different types of Jews and Jewish families today: Cultural Jews, those who are spiritual but not religious, couples where only one person is Jewish, and those who are atheist but still seek a spiritual community. SecularSynagogue.com will welcome all these people. And we’ll do it online, so people can get their daily dose of spiritual wisdom whenever and wherever they are,” she says.
Following a successful pilot, SecularSynagogue.com will begin accepting members on September 1, in advance of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year. Membership to the online community will be $18 a month or $180 per year. While interaction, teachings and resources will be primarily web-based, Rabbi Denise says membership will include some opportunities for in-person connection, including a Rosh Hashanah hike in Toronto on September 11 to bring the new community together and celebrate the High Holiday.
“As Canadian Jewish life continues to evolve, we are seeing new and alternative ways to find Jewish meaning. The younger generation in particular are often no longer content to conform to standard modes of Jewish belief and practice,” says Professor Randal F. Schnoor of York University’s Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies. “Skilled Jewish leaders and educators are finding important ways to connect with these parts of the community who may have otherwise remained out of reach.”
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Rabbi Denise Handlarski firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-854-0133