Jewish Religious Survival

Jewish Religious Survival

Question: Is religion alive and well or struggling to survive in Canada?

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

Were you to ask “Is religion alive?” it would be easy to say yes. But “alive and well” is a different question. And I am not sure what to tell you. The reason why people believe has not changed.

Belief is the anchor for everything we do. Belief in God means that the world was created with a purpose rather than just magically. Creation with a purpose gives birth to life with a purpose. Creation as a random event makes everything we do concomitantly random and likely devoid of ultimate meaning.

People believe, but how that belief is expressed is arguably going through a transformation. Established religions are not doing so well. Recent reports about the sale of a local synagogue because of financial challenges served to highlight major fiscal difficulties that established religions face.

Many synagogues are having difficulty managing. Fixed costs do not go down, and often go up, but revenue is not assured. Synagogues which depend on membership fees to meet their budget are vulnerable to economic downturns that make the payment of membership fees problematic for some families.

That impacts on the bottom line, causing these places of worship to either find alternate revenue sources, downsize (always risky) or close their doors. The additional challenge to synagogues of having to pay for security because of threats does not help.

So, religion is alive, and insofar as the reason for believing, is still well. But the places wherein the belief is given group expression are certainly not well. The struggle for individual institution survival is not relegated to Canada. Our neighbours below the border and synagogues in other countries face similar challenges.

The good news is that synagogues in general will survive. The uncertain news is which will survive and which will close. Those that are able to adapt to the new realities, by creative approaches combined with prudent downsizing, will likely make it. erhaps the fact that each synagogue’s survival is not guaranteed will be a good thing, as it will lead to redoubling of effort on all fronts to make it work.

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