Towards a New Spiritual Community

The conventional way to belong to a Jewish religious community used to go something like this: Join a synagogue. Pay your dues. Send the kids to Hebrew school. Show up at services a few times a year.

I’m stereotyping here, but not much. For many Jews, “community” meant a synagogue, an institution, and their relationship with it was transactional. It worked — until it didn’t.

Driven by larger social forces, many 21st-century Jews want both less and more: fewer categories, more meaning; less religion, more spirituality. Around the country, intentional spiritual communities are experimenting with new modes of worship, study and service, forming the nucleus of what Rabbi Sid Schwarz calls “an American Jewish renaissance.”

To nurture and sustain this movement, Schwarz, with the help of Clal, has created the New Paradigm Spiritual Communities Initiative, a forum where the people leading these efforts to redefine Jewish life and community come together, learn from each other and find support for their efforts.

The Forward is pleased to be NPSCI’s digital partner. Starting in early May, we will host The New Spirituality, a blog written by the rabbis, educators, philosophers, entrepreneurs and social justice activists whom Schwarz has brought together to share their ideas and experiences and to create a public platform for further discussion. Join us at, and see where American Judaism is headed.

This story "Towards a New Spiritual Community" was written by Jane Eisner.

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