Creating Jewish Engagement

Writing on her personal blog, Esther Kustanowitz shares important thoughts on engaging young Jewish adults.

An excerpt from Getting Engaged: Part One:

So how do 20s and 30s make meaningful choices? It’s not a question of “this or that” – choices grow from a complex cocktail of influences starting in youth with parental influence, childhood environment and education, and are joined along the Yellow Brick Road by self-individuation, relationship with family, connection to tradition, manifestation of passions, media messages, and – perhaps one of the biggest influences in the days of social networking, crowdsourcing and peer recommendations – what choices their friends are making.

Affiliation is a choice. Civic engagement is a choice. Social activism is a choice. And when it comes to making space in their lives for those choices, many of which exist concurrently and definitely non-exclusively, most NextGen people don’t rely on organizations to do it for them, because they can do it better, faster, stronger and cheaper themselves. As Clay Shirky titled it in his book, “Here Comes Everybody,” this is the particular power of “organizing without organizations.” Is there any concept more terrifying to legacy organizations than the threat of their obsolescence?

Regular commitment to a set of people based in a singular geographical place is not today’s default organizing mindset. For those who perceive a need, the web is a field of dreams: build it, and people will come. Some will wander through on their own, others will come because you invite them and their networks. But this is the era of the flash mob – if something resonates, a passionate crowd will gather as its champions. But from that temporary, immersive, intense community, relationships can develop and persevere beyond the end of a specific motivation. It’s the equivalent to having a summer camp experience – it may not be that many weeks or months long, but it makes an impact and creates relationships that often persevere, and occasionally, evolve into something more intimate and connected.

Check out both Getting Engaged: Part 1 and Part 2: Courting Engagement (with 7 important take-aways to keep-in-mind).