Chronicle poll results: Number of synagogues in Pittsburgh
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Chronicle poll results: Number of synagogues in Pittsburgh

We asked our readers if they think Pittsburgh has too many synagogues. Here's what they said.

Last week, the Chronicle asked its readers in an electronic poll the following question: “With congregational affiliation declining, do you think Pittsburgh has too many synagogues?” Of the 231 people who responded, 47% said “No”; 34% said “Yes”; and 19% said “Not sure.” 72 people submitted comments. A few follow.

Orthodox synagogues have been growing in the past decade but are still way short of filling their buildings. With rising maintenance and facility costs, and less differentiation between congregations, it would be prudent to merge on some level to ensure a thriving present and future.

The Orthodox synagogues seem to be doing pretty well in terms of attendance and participation. I think that Conservative and Reform synagogues ought to be more willing to hold joint services, with small adjustments in liturgy. Women could have prominent roles.

As long as enough congregants of a synagogue can support it, then their membership is the only factor to consider. Economics will continue to right size the number of synagogues in our community. But the broader community needs to work to encourage people to join a synagogue while the synagogues strive to adapt to the community.

Each congregation is unique. Reducing the number of synagogues would create a “box store” landscape. What is the objective, efficiency or engagement?

Virtual attendance — during the pandemic — has been a very meaningful experience for those who are able to accept this type of religious participation. It is almost certain to continue, and is responsible for people of all ages regularly taking part in morning, evening, Sabbath and High Holiday services.

Congregational leaderships should work together and with Federation to consider what’s best for Jewish Pittsburgh, not for their individual shuls — which is to consolidate.

As a student at Pitt, I loved all the choices!

Synagogues of each denomination in the Squirrel Hill area need to consolidate to remain viable. Many of the synagogues should rethink their business models. They should merge or downsize and consider a voluntary dues structure. As for them providing for the spiritual needs of their congregants, they need to talk about Torah and not how it justifies a political point of view. There is a reason why Chabad is growing worldwide while the more lenient movements are stagnant or shrinking.

Those who remain or become affiliated with a congregation do so with a particular congregation they choose for a reason or reasons. Trying to combine some congregations will end up losing even more members. Take a cue from what’s happened in many Catholic parishes that have been combined. Many members have stopped attending.

Too costly to keep smaller synagogues running. Catholic churches are consolidating; we should too.

We could combine congregations and pool our resources, but I’m not optimistic that boards and rabbis would be able to put their egos aside for the greater good. PJC

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