Top Shuls

The same caveats apply to the Newsweek Vibrant Congregations list that apply to their top rabbis list. The results of the Rabbi lists are strange and the methodology, insofar as it exists, is opaque and the criteria vague. The same holds true for the Newsweek Shuls list. That said, some good congregations get recognized and I wanted to point out one of them. Among those listed is the shul at which I grew up:

Germantown Jewish Centre, Philadelphia
A model for pluralistic and egalitarian worship and community.

As the short blurb points out it is a model for a certain kind of pluralism. Few, if any, synagogues have such a healthy approach to minyanim. GJC has two regularly meeting minyanim, one Reconstructionist and the other traditional egal. In the past decades these minaynim have been increasingly integrated into the broader synagogue community. The suspicion and competition that surrounds these sorts of multi-option communities has dissipated greatly over time. In addition to religious diversity GJC is actively engaged in social justice work and partnership with other progressive religious organizations in Philadelphia. Mazal tov, GJC, on some well deserved recognition.

4 thoughts on “Top Shuls

  1. I do think it might have been useful for them to distinguish between “St. Louis’ only congregation” and “the only congregation of about two dozen in the metro area which is still housed inside the St. Louis city limits.” But I guess it’s too much to ask the nice people at Newsweek to sort *that* out after the exacting task of distinguishing between “New York,” “Bronx, N.Y.,” and “Brooklyn, N.Y.”

  2. ROTFL. I’ve been to many shuls on this list and they’re great. Not knocking them at all! But to call any institution “one of America’s most relevant and community-minded synagogues” is really funny.

  3. I think it difficult to judge what is, and what is not a great shul. There are so many factors to determine such a thing.
    But Germantown Jewish Center,in Philadelphia, and its Rabbi Lenny Gordon, certainly deserve this honor. This is a shul that remained in a racially changed neighborhood, commits to pluralism, is very socially issues involved, and has a deeply caring rabbi.

  4. How GJC came to be the only synagogue in the NW Philly neighborhoods that stayed in the city is a heartwarming story. Then Rabbi Elias Cherry along with several mainline protestant colleagues decided that White Flight was immoral and that integrated communities were a blessing. The Rabbi stayed, the ministers stayed, their congregations stayed, and they told their congregants that they expected them to stay. This is how Mt. Airy became one of the oldest fully integrated neighborhoods in America. The Quaker meeting, Unitarian Church, Methodist Church, and GJC all stayed in the neighborhood and anchored a White middle class while the neighborhood was developing a Black middle class.

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