What We Talk About When We Talk About Voluntary Dues

People respond generously to the voluntary model because it implicitly redefines what membership is. By Michael Wasserman An increasing number of American synagogues are replacing conventional dues with voluntary dues - that is free-will giving. As of last winter, roughly 30 synagogues had taken that step, and many more are considering it.[1] In most cases, they have done so because of growing resistance to the conventional dues model. … [Read more...]

“Jewish Continuity” at 25: What Did We Achieve? What Have We Learned?

By Jonathan Woocher It isn’t really the 25th anniversary of what came to be called the “Jewish continuity” endeavor in North America. The first Continuity Commission was established in Cleveland before the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey was mounted; and the first results of the 1990 NJPS - including the alarm-ringing, hand-wringing statistic of a 52% intermarriage rate - didn’t appear until the calendar had turned. But, 1990 is a convenient enough date to mark the beginning of a significant effort that has unfolded over the past two and a half decades aimed at strengthening Jewish identity and engagement among American Jews, many of whom, it was argued then and since (viz. the reactions to the 2013 Pew study) are in danger of or are already being lost to Jewish life as active … [Read more...]

Federation Leaders Speak

By Misha Galperin As Professor Jonathan Sarna famously said about us: "Jews are an ever-dying people," so does the federation movement seem to be an ever-dying enterprise. Every decade or so, someone declares that federations are done, finished, on their way out, irrelevant, outmoded, not up with the times, old-fashioned and just about to fade away. The most recent declaration that touched off a firestorm of responses and discussion even called them "ugly" or, at least, focused on what was referred to as their "ugly side." Well, whatever your opinion is of the beauty or lack thereof of the federations, I thought it important to ask authoritative leaders of federations - lay and professional, current and immediate past - to weigh in on this discussion that heretofore has been waged without such … [Read more...]

Body & Soul: Mitzvah Garden KC is Growing Something Good

KC MItzvah Garden

By Maayan Jaffe eJewish Philanthropy According to Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13, when God created the first human, God led him around all the trees in the Garden of Eden. God said to man, “See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. Everything I have created has been created for your sake. Be mindful not to corrupt or destroy My world; for if you corrupt it, there will be no one to repair it after you.” From the creation of the physical world in the first book of the Torah until today, the mitzvah of l’ovdah u’l’shomrah, protecting the environment has long been a tenet of Judaism. Jewish thinkers throughout the ages have offered us a framework for how we should interact with the world around us. Today, l’ovdah u’l’shomrah is playing out in what might be a rather unlikely location: … [Read more...]

When Is a Refugee No Longer a Refugee

[eJP note: Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt's recent piece, "Are Jewish Nonprofits Finally Learning to Speak Russian?" brought to mind the essay below. To frame this submission in the broader communal conversations taking place at the time, the much discussed 1990 population study was about to be officially released and relative to the issues highlighted below, this was also the height of the resettlement enterprise.] When Is a Refugee No Longer a Refugee and Other Post Resettlement Observations By Robert Hyfler, Ph.D. [Presented at the Council of Jewish Federations Planners' Institute, West Palm Beach, Florida, January 14, 1991. Subsequently published in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service, Vol. 68/No. 3, 1992. Reprinted with permission.] The starting assumption of this article is that the … [Read more...]

A Meal That Connects


[This essay is from Contact, a publication of The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life. Reprinted with permission.] By Ari L. Goldman The 15 dinner guests arrived at Ariel Abrahams’ Chinatown apartment on a recent Friday night just around the time the groceries arrived from the supermarket. Everyone dug into the bags of food and dinner preparations were underway. One guest knew how to bake and was kneading and rolling the dough that soon emerged from the oven as challah. Others turned the vegetables, grains and spices into a savory curry and made hot and cold salads. Someone made sweet potato lemonade. “We all set the table together,” Abrahams said. “The meal made itself.” Abrahams calls himself a performance artist and he often brings people together for communal walks, art … [Read more...]

Top 10+ Reasons to Send Your Rabbi to Jewish Summer Camp

Some of Congregation Or Ami's delegation to Camp Newman

By Rabbi Paul Kipnes Want to enhance your synagogue? Then send your rabbis, cantors, educators and youth professions annually to work at a Jewish summer camp. Not as vacation time, but as a two-week professional development and personal renewal work experience. Your clergy and staff will come back refreshed and renewed. Your congregation will benefit from new creative ideas, inspiring music and energized staff. A Place for Personal Renewal and Professional Growth Every summer my wife Michelle November and I lead a delegation of 40+ people from Congregation Or Ami (Calabasas, CA) to the URJ Camp Newman (Santa Rosa, CA). For two weeks I serve as Rabbinic Faculty Dean, assisting the young rashim (unit heads) with their programs, leading creative services, sitting in staff meetings, and … [Read more...]