The Forward's Guide To American Synagogues

Here at the Forward, we had a big dream.

What if we could serve as a clearinghouse for basic information about synagogue life across this country, from older, established institutions to newer independent minyanim and spiritual communities? What if we could create a crowd-sourced compilation of data that will serve as a resource to readers nationwide and offer synagogues of all shapes, sizes and denominations a chance to share their story?

A young family moves into a new town. A young professional, with no Jewish education, finds herself alone for a holiday in a new city. A retired couple is looking for a like-minded community, as they enter a new stage of life. Where does one turn? How does one find out which service will be the ‘right fit’? Where is the non-denominational database that can offer practical information for those seeking community? For those seeking family programming, or a short beginner’s service, or perhaps a very long cantorial service, or simply a place to meet other Jews?

And so, our ‘synagogue guide’ was born.

Here, we tried to capture a portrait of American Judaism. Who is going to synagogues today? What are membership numbers like — that is, who is investing in their community’s future? What do modern-day synagogues look like? Are they traditional institutions, or independent-minded spiritual communities, reimagining what it means to be a place of prayer, learning and community in the 21st century?

In this inaugural year, our guide provides a snapshot of Jewish life, gleaned from data from hundreds of synagogues across the country. We learned that more synagogues are going multi-denominational. Access for the disabled is a real issue, which some synagogues are working to improve. Membership in conventional synagogues skews older, while increasingly, young Jews are turning to independent non-denominational communities with a focus on social justice. Internally, denominations are struggling with unique identity conflicts, as rabbis and lay leaders wrote to us from across the country — Conservative Jews are torn over intermarriage, Orthodox Jews are divided over women’s roles, Reform Jews are worried about attracting the unaffiliated.

And all around the country, American Jews are struggling with how much to allow politics into the sanctuary — an issue which appears throughout the sermon-writing process. Stay tuned for more of our reporting on American synagogues, as we dive deeper into local Jewish communities nationwide.

Below, we welcome you to explore our findings, across denominations. Browse synagogues near you by state, or check them out by denomination — alongside our relentless, independent journalism on Jewish communal and spiritual life.

And thank you for being part of this dream.

In compiling this data, we reached out to thousands of communal professionals and lay leaders to submit their synagogue information. These are the communities that have responded. Don’t see your synagogue on our site? Fill out the survey here, and we’ll add it in our next iteration.

Tips, questions, comments? We’d love to hear from you. Email us synagogues@forward.com.

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