In this era of "a la carte" services being offered by a variety of Jewish groups, supporters of synagogues have been doing their best to "reinvent" their institutions with programs and services that will attract what many fear is a dwindling base of families.
Competition for synagogue Hebrew schools, the main drawing card to get families through the door, is growing. These non-synagogue schools allow parents who have no interest in the sort of social and religious aspects of synagogue life to give their kids a smattering of Jewish education with no strings attached, as well as fewer hours and requirements for their students.
While such schools are certainly better than no Jewish education at all -- which may well be the alternative for many of the families that choose them -- the idea that Jewish life can thrive without synagogues is a myth.
Integral to any notion of Jewish identity is being part of a group based on common values and beliefs. That is why when Jews pray they seek a minyan -- a quorum of fellow worshippers -- whenever possible. Synagogues are not merely buildings where services and study take place but hubs of living communities.
This week, as many of us head into synagogue for the High Holy Days, it is a good time to remember the importance of these institutions and why they must survive and grow if our community is to have a future.