The Summer/Fall 2009 issue of the Journal of Jewish Communal Service is now available. Published by the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America and titled, The HUC-JIR School of Jewish Communal Service: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future, the issue celebrates the 40th anniversary of the School and is filled with timely submissions of interest to all working in our community.
Here is an excerpt from the first of several articles we will be bringing to you. You can also subscribe to The Journal and help support its continued growth.
The Contribution of Prof. Daniel J. Elazar and Jewish Political Studies to the Training and Practice of the Jewish Communal Professional
by Howard M. Weisband
Whether for pragmatic reasons or institutional turf concerns, often there is little application of good political theory to community life, thereby leading to a fragmented community. In a 2008 interview, Jack Wertheimer more fully described this contemporary fragmentation:
“In the mid-1970s Daniel Elazar wrote a comprehensive and seminal book, Community and Polity, which analyzed the structure of organized Jewish life in the United States. Elazar documented ways in which American Jewry had successfully developed from being highly fragmented to becoming an integrated polity with its own structure for self-governance and leadership. He described the important connections between American Jews and their organizations, how the various spheres of Jewish life came together, and how Jewish organizations intersected with one another.
Since Elazar’s book appeared thirty years ago, the integration process has largely reversed. The national leadership structure of the Jewish community has reverted to a fragmented state, a condition that might be far more the norm of American Jewish life than the unified structure that briefly held sway during the three decades after World War II (Wertheimer, 2008).”
One specific manifestation of this fragmentation is that Jewish communal professional leaders “were cited by peers as highly effective leaders in their particular spheres, but not as individuals who had a platform transcending their agencies”(Wertheimer, 2008).
As a remedy to the fragmented situation, the knowledge and use of Jewish political theory combined with historical example would help professional and lay leaders think and act more forthrightly toward community and away from environmental forces and institutional concerns that push toward individualism and fragmentation. The result would be an increased emphasis and a proactive return to greater K’lal Yisrael and Jewish peoplehood.
[the complete article, The Contribution of Prof. Daniel J. Elazar, is available for download – copyright by Jewish Communal Service Association of North America]