Values For Each Generation: Rabbi Hayim Herring, Strategic Planning Consultant

This blog post on “If Not Now, When?”: The Interactive Blog of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple is adapted from Tomorrow’s Synagogue’s Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, written by Rabbi Hayim Herring, our congregation’s strategic planning consultant. Rabbi Herring is working closely with our strategic planning team on prioritizing key initiatives and strategies for achieving excellence in the future of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple. For more information on Rabbi Herring see Please feel free to make comments below that we will study closely.

Regardless of whether a synagogue has an explicit values statement, you can recognize an organization’s lived values in its culture. In my contact with many synagogues throughout the United States, I have found that the organizational cultures of many congregations are informed with values that date from the early 1970’s to the mid-1980’s. The challenge facing such synagogues is that many individuals live and work in a culture characterized by a very different value set. You can see today how technology has accelerated the widespread adoption of some values from an earlier age (inclusion, egalitarianism) while also giving birth to new values (accessible specialized knowledge, interdependence). The context in which most of us live our lives has fundamentally changed in the past 30 years, but synagogues, for a variety of reasons, have lagged in recognizing this shift.

Look at this table, and think about the synagogues or other religious institutions in which you grew up. Which organizational values shaped your outlook?

Yesterday’s Organizational Values



Authority determined by degree & professional training

Honor tradition

Membership based

Commitment to institution



Limited local orientation


Closely-held knowledge


Contemporary Organizational Values

Democratic, Egalitarian

Fluid, improvisational

Influence determined by expertise, passion & experience

Respect Innovation

Community Driven

Commitment to cause

Interdependence and collaboration


Expansive, global orientation


Accessible specialized knowledge


If you are a member of the generation born between 1946-1964 (Baby-Boomer) or older, you were likely shaped by the values in the top column. On the other hand, those who are Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1976) and Generation Y – Millenials (born between 1976 and 2002) you tend to be more committed to the values in the bottom column. Many baby-boomers and those who are older struggle to make the transition to a new set of values, while Generation X and Generation Y (also called Millenials) are confused by the perceived barriers to participation in congregational life created by the older values.

One of the challenges that congregations have is to create bridges of understanding across these different generational expectations about how congregations operate, and then develop new pathways to participation for younger generations that still honor the past

Would you like to share input with the strategic planning team or offer a personal response to this article? Our strategic planning team chairs, Michele Krantz and Russell Benghiat, together with their diverse team of lay leaders, clergy and staff, would love to hear from you. Send an email to and we will carefully consider your thoughts. You may also post below!