A Guide to Introducing a Meditative Experience in Congregations
A Joint project of the FJMC and the Cantors Assembly
This guide has been created to provide congregation decision makers with needed information to institute a Jewish Meditative experience in their synagogue on Shabbat morning in order to provide a Shabbat experience to those who either find the main service not to their liking or are searching for a more spiritual opportunity. The questions and answers that follow were designed to provide basic guidelines how to proceed. The accompanying essays seek to explain the authenticity of Jewish meditation.
One of the greatest challenges synagogue professionals face is how to adapt traditional worship to a population that is becoming increasingly less engaged and more distant. In an attempt to bridge this gap learner’s services, rhythmic or instrumental music has in many cases been integrated into the Friday evening and Shabbat morning services. These efforts to some degree have been and continue to be successful but are dwarfed by the vast number of men and women who seek out spiritual experiences in the meditation and yoga worlds. These people are, by in large not attracted and do not find satisfying the traditional forms of Jewish worship
In an attempt to attract this growing population a number of congregations have begun to introduce guided meditations into the traditional services or to offer meditative experiences in a separate venue. Unfortunately the decision makers in the congregation, while well intended, often lack the necessary background to maximize this effort. As a result, it is common in congregations for people to attend a meditative service and immediately following the service’s conclusion, leave. Rather than having introduced a successful way of engaging and integrating people into the community the congregation is simply offering a “service”, filling a space, and failing to capitalize on the population it wishes to develop.
This guide attempts to address the concerns:
- What information does a synagogue decision maker need to know if he/she wishes to introduce a Jewish meditative experience to the congregation?
- What questions does the decision maker need to ask the prospective instructor?
- What are the goals of this programmatic venue?
- Is Jewish meditation authentic?
- What can a meditative experience accomplish?
- How does one create a meditative experience?
- What are the concepts that this experience strives to cultivate?
- How should said service be composed?
The material that follows is a result of a series of conversations with internationally known meditative instructors, members of the Cantors Assembly and Rabbinical Assembly who have experimented with and trained in Jewish meditative arts.