By Shlomi Ravid
In many respects JCCs are the embodiment of Jewish Peoplehood. By design they represent Jewish spaces that provided, for generations of Jews, a gateway to Jewish civilization and the Jewish people. As communal agents and engines of Jewish civilization they are also confronted by the current challenges facing the Jewish community and the need to operate in a changing environment and context.
In this collection of essays, we set out to explore how JCCs approach and implement the role of being the gateway to Jewish Peoplehood. Some of the questions we asked our article contributors were:
- What approach/es to Jewish Peoplehood resonate with your constituency and how can they be translated to programming?
- How can joining a JCC turn into a journey for connecting to the Jewish People, identity and civilization?
How do you embrace diversity throughout the classic Jewish spectrum and beyond (i.e. including interfaith families and non-Jewish members) without compromising a focus on Jewish identity?
- What is the added value of Jewish Peoplehood education to the JCC?
- How do you introduce, in practice and in concrete terms, the global dimension of Peoplehood and how do you engage with Israel?
- Do current challenges require a shift in content and educational focus and should these be reflected in JCC staffing, professional development and lay-professional structure and relations?
The articles in this collection tell the story of a diverse movement with a global spread, wrestling with new challenges. Each JCC brings its local story and particular challenges as part of the overall challenge of keeping Judaism and Jewish Peoplehood current, engaging and meaningful. Figuring out the nature and appeal of Jewish communal institutions in the current paradigm, and their connection to the larger Jewish story, is anything but simple. It requires creativity and innovation as well as persistence. The good news is that the above are all manifested in the stories shared here, including a realistic sense of the complexity of the challenges, the courage and stamina required for addressing them and a deep belief in the cause. There is definite room for cautious optimism.
Dr. Shlomi Ravid is Executive Director of The Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education and Editor of The Peoplehood Papers.