Status Update: The Government of Israel and World Jewry Joint Initiative

Ways to the jewish FutureFollowing up on last week’s “Online Jam Session” organized by the Government of Israel and World Jewry Joint Initiative, a draft report from the Content Team – “The Initiative: Ways to the Jewish Future” has been distributed.

from the report:

Next Steps

“The recommendations in this paper make possible the next steps in this continuing conversation between the Government of Israel and the Jewish world. While the focus of this paper is the proposed content for the Initiaitive, the organization of the operational model – who will make decisions and how – remains under discussion. The Government will draft a resolution to increase dramatically its investment in securing the Jewish future. The content development will continue to advance, including the detailing of an implementation plan. The funding community will be invited to explore partnership opportunities and take an active role in further shaping the initiative. B’yachad kulanu k’Echad (together in unison), we contribute this paper to further the shared endeavor to secure the future of the Jewish People and Israel.”

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  1. Charles Lebow says

    Where should I start?

    From the report: “This initiative is animated by the ambition to nurture Jews who are eager to integrate Jewish values and practices with universal thinking. This concept can be captivating to millions of young Jews.”

    Do they really think that young Jews are “eager to integrate Jewish values and practices with universal thinking”? And if they would, do they really think that with this integration that our problems would somehow be solved?

    What research has been done to confirm this?

    I see nothing new in this report. The recommendations are about throwing more money into the same things that are already being done by the Jewish Agency (more shlichim, more trips, etc). Who says that getting more Jews in the Diaspora to love Israel will do anything to “secure a Jewish Future”? Are Jews who love Israel more likely to send their children to day schools? Are Jews who love Israel more likely to marry another Jew? Maybe the answer is yes, but I would like to see some figures to back up their assumptions.

    Let’s take a step back for a second. The Israeli State that was founded on the premise that there is no future for the Diaspora has now changed its tune and wants to support a viable Diaspora community. The first question that needs to be asked is what should be the purpose (or purposes) of these Diaspora communities?

    If we want to adopt the Babylonian model we see that the community became known for its great centers of Jewish learning. Yes, there was assimilation in Babylon but there was enough of a dedicated core to make sure that not only did the community survive, but created something of excellence that surpassed what was happening in Israel.

    If the Diaspora communities are going to thrive they must have a purpose which contributes to the future of the Jewish mission. Right now the largest communities are looked at as a source of funding for non-essential projects in Israel and as a somewhat mediocre advocacy group for the government of Israel. We have to have a better raison d’être for the Diaspora.

  2. D. Himelfarb says

    And those comments are the same complaints….

    We have no one to blame but ourselves and we should not screed against Israel for attempts to help us achieve what we are failing at ourselves. American Jewish communities must step up and take responsibility for ourselves. For those of us who are troubled by the implications of studies like Pew and the UJA New York Jewish Community Study, it is our responsibility to become active in our communities and change the status quo.

    The purpose of the synagogue is to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people. We didn’t need studies to tell us that, especially in liberal Jewish synagogues, we are failing to fulfill our purpose and have been failing for a decades. The studies force us to look in the mirror and face a reality that is worse than we wanted to admit. We have not been teaching our children and grandchildren why Jewish matters and why it should matter to them. It’s time for frank talk about how our Jewish organizations can fulfill their purpose. It’s time to stop wringing our hands, to stop blaming others, to stop lamenting our failures, even if they are personal.

    Someone on the board of every Jewish institution must, at their next meeting or sooner, stand up, declare that they have failed to fulfill their purpose, and challenge everyone who has volunteered to take on a fiduciary responsibility to commit their ongoing activities to planning and implementing steps to perpetuate our people. If we value our enlightenment and our openness and our acceptance of others and the equal role of women in society and our pursuit of social justice not to mention our heritage then we should want to make sure that it is something that not only survives but thrives into the future. Because the alternative is that liberal Judaism will be greatly diminished in the future with smaller numbers and a weaker voice and less relevance on an unstoppable downward spiral.

    Let us all commit ourselves to taking responsibility for engaging with our communities and our institutions to enact changes that will teach children and parents alike that American Judaism is in trouble, its survival is threatened, that they have no choice but to impact the Jewish future for better or for worse. Let’s give them the education they need to fuel the desire to create a thriving Jewish future, and let’s give them the tools they need to do it.