GELT COMPLEX: New Home for Singer, Study Looks Beyond Shul

Published December 05, 2007, issue of December 07, 2007.
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New Home for Singer

Less than a year after he was ousted from the World Jewish Congress under a cloud of suspicion and following an acrimonious dispute with some of its leaders, Israel Singer found a new home with the American Jewish Congress.

By becoming the new chair of the international policy council of the AJCongress’s Council for World Jewry, Singer will be able to continue the diplomatic activities that became his trademark at the WJC and when he was president of the Claims Conference. His arrival also provides an additional indication of the AJCongress’s willingness to raise its international profile through its Council for World Jewry, which is headed by Jack Rosen.

Singer was fired in March after then-WJC president Edgar Bronfman alleged that he had tried to transfer $1.5 million of WJC money into a Swiss bank account. Singer has denied any wrongdoing. He will not be paid by the AJCongress.

While Singer is on the rise, his former deputy at the WJC, Pinchas Shapiro, left his position at the WJC this week, according to the organization. Shapiro was initially close to Singer, but they fell out during Singer’s last months at the WJC. The organization said Shapiro was leaving for a private equity firm.

— Marc Perelman

Study Looks Beyond Shul

A new study of independent Jewish communities has found that their members tend to be both younger than synagogue members and more strongly connected to Judaism.

According to a study of 80 spiritual communities across North America, 74% of participants in these groups are young adults, compared with 29% of synagogue members. This figure is particularly significant, given ongoing concerns about declining levels of Jewish affiliation among young Jews. The study, which was conducted by an independent prayer group in New York and by Synagogue 3000, a not-for-profit dedicated to innovative approaches to worship, examined Jewish groups that have been founded since 1996 and that are not affiliated with a synagogue or a larger Jewish organization.

The study estimated the overall number of such groups, but it does not give an estimate of how many people are involved with them.

Sociologist Steven M. Cohen, who led the study, argued that even without being able to gauge the total number of participants in these groups, the demographic profile of the participants themselves was significant.

“These are young, nonmarried adults. They don’t join synagogues,” he said. “So the fact that they’re showing up at all is surprising.”

Cohen told the Forward that the independent groups were dispersed across the entire country.

The study found that participants in these groups are more likely than synagogue members to attend services regularly. They are also more likely to have had intensive Jewish experiences, such as attendance at a day school or at a Jewish camp.

The vast majority of participants in the independent communities identified as either unaffiliated or Conservative Jews, and 65% of participants are women.

— Anthony Weiss

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