One of the guiding principles of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation is Jewish youth shape the future of the Jewish people. Guided by Foundation President Edgar M. Bronfman, and believing Jewish youth possess exceptional vision and talent, they look to inspire a renaissance in Jewish life – to empower this demographic to lead the Jewish people and the world community.
Joining his father in carrying out the Foundation’s mission is Adam Bronfman, who serves as Managing Director. Adam and I recently sat down to talk about the NextGen, Temple Har Shalom and (as in any conversation with father or son) his father’s recent book, Hope Not Fear.
As readers of this blog know, NextGen is a term I dislike, and therefore I started our conversation with this thought. It turned out, Adam was not focused on the term itself until the recent Jerusalem GA and the Next Generation Day that preceded the formal opening.
Adam attacked the problem head on, indicating Jewish communal “leadership is associated with his father’s generation”. He continued, the “language of connection isn’t there.” He is convinced that “if we get over our unintended barriers we will see a groundswell in Jewish life.”
Adam is passionate about his beliefs – and about the programs the Foundation supports. He considers the participants in the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel “stars – whom I learn from on a daily basis.” Adam feels this generation (of which he includes himself) is seeking new ways to express and learn – and specifically singled out Hebrew Union College and Brandeis University as organizations providing what is being sought. “Institutions must reach out, say come as you are, explore and learn together.”
At the core is Adam’s belief that his generation is one that yearns for meaning and value – they struggle with the fundamental question of “why be Jewish?”. With roughly 50% of students on American college campuses coming from families with only one Jewish parent, Adam feels “our greatest challenge comes not from without, but from within. We face a growing plague of apathy and ignorance.”
For Adam, “Judaism is defined by ideas, community and a passion for building a better tomorrow.” This is one reason he is a strong supporter of Hillel International and during his recent visit to Jerusalem was constantly sporting a fire engine red “tell me your story” Hillel scarf. With Hillel engaging and developing Jewish youth through pluralism, diversity and social action, he sees the organization as one of the answers to preserving our Jewish legacy.
And this is something Adam thinks long and hard on – what will his generation’s legacy be – what type of Jewish community will our children inherit. He recognizes his generation is different from his father’s – but thinks we can all learn from, explore and support one another and therefore confront the challenges together.
Tomorrow, Adam shares thoughts on inclusiveness and meeting the spiritual needs of the Jewish community.