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Sisterhoods urged to seek younger women
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Sisterhoods urged to seek younger women

Conservative leader says synagogues need new approach

Carol Simon, right, international president of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism — with Garden State Region president Ilene Rothman — challenged those in attendance to find ways to attract younger women.    
Carol Simon, right, international president of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism — with Garden State Region president Ilene Rothman — challenged those in attendance to find ways to attract younger women.    

Changing times require synagogue sisterhoods to rethink their strategies for attracting younger women into the fold.

So said the international president of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism in a Sept. 10 program at East Brunswick Jewish Center. 

Carol Simon, a resident of Tampa, Fla., told members of the league’s Garden State Region that like many charitable organizations, synagogue sisterhoods are having trouble attracting younger members.

“They are not volunteering as much time as those of us 60 and over did,” she told the more than 100 women in attendance. “When we got married, we had kids, joined a synagogue and sisterhood.”

Now younger women have careers and myriad other competing interests that command their attention, said Simon. 

She challenged audience members to come up with ideas to pique the interest of women in their 30s and 40s, showing them how they will find spiritual growth and lifelong friendships with other women.

“It is our goal to reach out and connect with women from North America and beyond,” said Simon, who said sisterhood members will also discover a venue for connecting with Israel and a plethora of educational initiatives.

These include learning to read Torah, programs to enhance Shabbat, programs in partnership with the Jewish Theological Seminary, and involvement with public advocacy initiatives on issues affecting American women and society. These issues include bullying, access to contraceptive services, and responding to the economic downturn.

As an example of an activity that appeals to the younger generation, Simon described how two women at a Florida synagogue proposed that mothers meet at a nearby bar for drinks and snacks while their children are in Hebrew school. 

“They said it would be a great way to meet other women,” said Simon. “Now 35 to 40 women meet every week.”

Garden State region president Ilene Rothman, a member of EBJC, described Women’s League as “USY [United Synagogue Youth] for adults,” with its many social events infused with Judaism.

Others suggested holding more social events as a way of drawing new members or even dropping the “sisterhood” name, which some may consider dated. 

Joleen Fridson, sisterhood president at Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah in Clark, said the event had given her “all kinds of ideas to attract new members.” 

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