December 8, 2019

Summertime Judaism

“Rabbis these days have a lot to contend with: the instability of Jewish identity, a restless and questioning flock, American Jews’ rocky relationship with the State of Israel, dwindling cultural literacy. Come June, July, and August, they encounter yet another hurdle as their congregants make for the shore, the lake, or the mountains, challenging the clerical powers-that-be to come up with film screenings, concerts, and classes to keep the lights on.

But take heart, rabbis. This latter-day, seasonal exodus is not new. Dating to the early years of the previous century and given a name—“summer Judaism”—it gave rise to considerable soul searching about the nature of faith and the limits of community.

As much a meteorological phenomenon as a cultural one, summer Judaism was, in part, a creation of the weather. In the dog days before air conditioning, it was just too hot to sit in the sanctuary on a summer morning. The stalwart worshippers who did so were apt to be “listless, inattentive and fully as much concerned with their physical comfort as with the prayers or sermons,” related one Kansas City rabbi. Increasingly, America’s Jews stayed away, prompting urban congregations either to close for the season, or, as one observer put it in 1906, to “drowse along through the summer with short services, perhaps for the mourners.””

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"There is nothing like the threat of nuclear Armageddon for focusing minds. That, at least, was true for Nato over the decades from its foundation in 1949. During the Cold War the alliance had a common purpose (collective defence), a common space..."

"Democrats are too “woke” for their own good, or so goes the argument. “Today’s progressivism is more or less a secular form of religion with its own high standards,” Matt Lewis, a conservative columnist, wrote this spring. “Eventually,” he..."

"To secure a stable climate for future generations, humanity will need to permanently bury gigatons of carbon dioxide. There is already too much in the atmosphere — 415 parts per million, when scientists say 350 ppm is the upper bound of safety..."

"Romantic love – seeking it, glorifying it, dishing it – is a human obsession. My English barmaid mother called it a ‘funny five minutes’ never to be trusted and basically dangerous for women. The feminist author Marilyn Yalom saw a mysterious..."

"Friday’s jobs report must have been adapted from a comic book — because everyone’s calling it a “blockbuster” (and Martin Scorsese hasn’t shown any interest in it). In November, America’s unemployment rate hit a half-century low, as U.S...."

"I know I won’t be the first to say it, seeing as how Barbra Streisand already sent you a star of David necklace, but on behalf of the Jews who weren’t famous enough to be invited to your recent bat mitzvah, take it from me: Welcome to the tribe..."

"Many countries would dissolve into chaos and disarray if dealt the same cards Israel has in 2019. The United States, for all its well-deserved democratic admiration, is being torn at the seams ever since President Donald Trump’s election in 2016..."

"Recent national surveys project that 53% of children will own a smartphone by age 11. While the reality of a child being able to utilize the features of a smartphone has provided many new benefits to both them and their parents, the harm of..."