Posted on March 16th, 2016

Bowling Alone: Lessons for our Congregations and Schools

bowlingaloneBowling Alone by Robert Putnam has been one of the most influential books I have ever read as a Jewish educator.

Written in 2000, it documents the disappearance of bowling leagues and the messages this phenomenon reveals about building and maintaining community. Putnam¬†introduces the idea of “social capital,” which is the idea that social networks have value. Values such as altruism, volunteerism and philanthropy give voice to these social networks. Religious affiliation is examined, explaining how those involved in religious organizations have more “social capital.” As a sociologist, Putnam looks at this breakdown in community involvement and its impact on individuals as well as groups.

The message for us as educators certainly points to the need to look for ways to involve our families and children in small community groups.

Robert Putnam has written two other books which are of interest to educators: American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us and Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

Robin Eisenberg, RJE, is the Director of Jewish Learning and Living at Temple Beth El in Boca Raton, Florida.