The religious landscape in America is undergoing radical change: While approximately 83% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, only 20% attend church regularly, and somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 churches close their doors every year. Less than 1/3 of American Jews belong to a synagogue. Meanwhile, 44% of Americans will change their religion at least once in their lifetime, and a growing share of young Americans – including the fastest growing group of American Jews – say they have no religion at all. However, meaning-making continues to be a boom industry, with many Americans continuing to gravitate to sources of wisdom and venues of spirituality. Some houses of worship have even bucked the trends to flourish in the current climate. Two friends and colleagues – one rabbi and one minister – offer a dispatch from the front-lines of making religion vital in 21st Century America.
Rabbi Michael Knopf is the Rabbi of Temple Beth-El in Richmond, VA. He is dedicated to engaging and supporting spiritual seekers; communicating the transformative power of Torah and prayer; and building welcoming, supportive, and inspiring community. These passions inspired him, prior to assuming the pulpit at Temple Beth-El, to serve as Assistant Rabbi of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, PA. Before his ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 2011, Rabbi Knopf helped coordinate the nation’s largest preparatory program for conversion to Judaism; worked as a spiritual counselor at Beit T’Shuvah, a Jewish addiction treatment facility; and served several congregations and educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada. Rabbi Knopf is a regular contributor to Haaretz’s “Rabbi’s Roundtable” blog, Jewish Values Online, and other publications; produces a weekly video message; and is cultivating a national reputation for scholarship in theology and Jewish law. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Rabbi Knopf enjoys movies, traveling, and pizza.