In 1998, the synagogue recognized that its membership wasn’t drawing in members in their 20s and 30s, so Rabbi David Wolpe joined forces with musician Craig Taubman – both dynamic forces on the LA Jewish landscape – and set about to turn Sinai Temple into not-your-typical-mom-and-and-pop synagogue-service, on Friday night per month. And thus, Friday Night Live was born. The service combined regular davening, rousing musical jams with a variety of musicians and David Wolpe’s stirring sermons and it wasn’t long before over 1,000 20 and 30-somethings packed the monthly services.
“After a few years, people said if we’re getting this many people to Friday night services, maybe we should do other things for people in their 20s and 30s,” says ATID Director Stacey Zackin who took over the post of director four and a half years ago. “So they hired a professional staff person and they organized events for big holidays and ran some lectures.”
However, when Zackin came onboard she began creating a whole slew of programs, and today there is at least one event a week, on top of the ongoing monthly Friday Night Live Services, and there’s a myriad of calendars, Post it notes, wall hangings and white boards strategically placed around her cluttered office to prove it.
Among the new programs on offer is ATID Outdoors, which takes place once a month on the Sunday following Friday Night Live. Events to date have included hikes, bike rides, tennis, run walks and ice-skating. Those events, says Zackin, usually draw anywhere from 11-35 people.
One of the programs Zackin is particularly proud of is Shabbat at Home; a catered dinner, hosted at the home of a different Sinai Temple member, and which takes place on average about once a month. Thirty to 55 people sign up for Shabbat at Home, says Zackin.
Zackin is also a certified life coach and hosts a life coach Havura together with Rabbi Nicole Guzik. The ongoing program helps individuals with their personal growth and development, utilizing Jewish values and traditions. ATID also hosts wine and cheese events, trips to Israel, cruises, and a myriad of thought provoking discussion and lectures designed to create a committed, engaged, young professional Jewish community. But with so many other organizations from JConnect to the Jewish Federation in Los Angeles doing similar things, is there really a need for ATID?
“Absolutely,” says Zackin. “We are a connection between all the social groups in the community but we also combine that with a synagogue structure. We consider ourselves one of the first groups to do this.” However, she does say that now that there are other groups doing similar things, ATID is contemplating whether it should shift its focus. “When I came here, it was never about membership [at Sinai Temple],” says Zackin. “If people didn’t become members after coming to one of our events but four years from now moved to Philadelphia or wherever and settled down and joined a synagogue because of their positive experiences with us, we felt that was a worthy goal.”
Today, though, she says the organization is thinking about focusing more on growing deeper community and membership. “Part of our mission is for people in their 20s and 30s to explore and celebrate their Judaism.” Doing so in the synagogue structure helps build the greater community, she says.
With Friday Night Live drawing over 1,000 people, Shabbat at Home dinners bringing in 50 people and 100 people attending a Tu B’Shvat Seder, Zackin believes ATID is very relevant to the local Jewish 20s and 30s community and will continue to thrive.
“There is so much potential in Judaism and so many lessons we can learn from Judaism to help us live a more involved life and [ATID’s] programs aim to continue to do that.”
Upcoming ATID events include a Tu B’Shvat Seder, and a trip to the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C. in March.
For more information on ATID and ATID’s programs visit www.atidla.com