Nurturing Jewish Peoplehood in the 21st Century: What Should We Do Differently?

[In cooperation with the Center for Jewish Peoplehood EducationeJewish Philanthropy is pleased to once again bring our readers the latest version of The Peoplehood Papers: Nurturing Jewish Peoplehood in the 21st Century – What Should We Do Differently? While the articles in the distributed editions appear in alphabetical order of their writers’ names, eJP will be cross-posting the articles around the key areas highlighted below.]

from Shlomi Ravid, the publications’ editor:

This issue of the Peoplehood papers follows in the footsteps of the previous one dedicated to Reinvigorating Jewish Peoplehood – the Philanthropic Perspective by addressing the challenge of Nurturing Jewish Peoplehood in the 21st Century – What Should We Do Differently? The underlying assumption of this conversation is that at the beginning of the 21st century, the Jewish People is facing a situation which is, in many respects, unprecedented in Jewish history. Being part of a free world and having a State of its own presents unique challenges to the notion of collective Jewish identity. It raises substantial questions regarding the meaning of Jewish Peoplehood and the role it can and should play in Jewish life. Those challenges, as well as modern developments in our overall approach to social belonging, dramatically affect the ways one can nurture and instill a sense of Peoplehood in the 21st century.

We asked our articles’ contributors what changes Peoplehood nurturing needs to undergo in order to be inspiring and impactful in today’s world. Their answers represent an array of creative responses to the changes in life patterns, the shifting of priorities and the emerging mindsets of young Jews today. Some of the articles focus on organizational strategies, while others on refining the Peoplehood message and pedagogic approach. All of them seem to share the view that a lot can be done in order to address the challenge of nurturing Peoplehood today and going forward.

The articles will be presented in the alphabetical order of their writers’ names, as is our custom, but we would like to point out the key areas and constituencies they focus on:

Teens, College Students and Birthright Alumni

Liat Cohen Raviv and Tal Gale, the directors of the International Diller Teen Fellows program, focus on nurturing Peoplehood in teenagers and on the challenges of building a Peoplehood oriented leadership in that age group. Abi Dauber Stern, Hillel’s VP of Global Jewish Experience writes about college students and the challenge of turning engagement and values into personal sustainable habits. For Morlie Levin, the Birthright Next CEO, who defines her challenge as turning the spark created by the Birthright Israel trip into a fire, the focus is to “enables young Jews to create authentic Jewish experiences on their own terms”.

Young Adults

David Cygelman, founding director of the Moishe House discusses the new opportunities that emerge with the postponement of marriage, to develop frameworks within the young adult community with substantial Peoplehood nurturing potential. Justin Korda, the Executive Director of the ROI Community, calls for taking risks with today’s young adults, learning to listen to them and allowing them to push the envelope on developing the future Jewish community and Peoplehood.

Jewish Service

Ilana Aisen, Vice President at Repair the World points to learning the Peoplehood nurturing opportunities that the interest in service creates. Dyonna Ginsberg the Director of Jewish Service Learning at the Jewish Agency for Israel and one of the co-founders of Siach describes the Peoplehood effect of the global conversation between Jewish social and environmental activists. Yonatan Glaser the director of B’etzedek points to the need to integrate “focus on Identity AND Jewish life, education AND social innovation” with “moral purpose and holiness”, as the way of the future in nurturing Jewish Peoplehood. He proposes to build that future through Jewish social service-learning programs.

Peoplehood in the community and globally

On the communal global level Ted Sokolsky, the CEO of the Toronto Federation calls for “five essential changes that must take place if we are to nurture and foster a true and modern sense of Jewish Peoplehood” with Israel as its leader. Andrea Arbel, the Director of JAFI’s Partnership2Gether, describes the shift from being a partnership framework to becoming a platform for Jewish Peoplehood. Erica Brown warns us against the Jewish communal tendency to cater to every sub-group in it, sometimes at the price of the communal whole.

Pedagogic and Strategic perspectives on Peoplehood nurturing

Jon Levisohn from Brandeis University offers a new perspectives on comprehensive approach to Peoplehood pedagogy, which Peoplehood nurturing will “cultivate an emotional connection to specific objects of shared attention – story, language, and love”. Bill Robinson the Chief Strategy Officer of the Jewish Education Project, claims that the “challenge of Jewish Peoplehood is to (re)discover our shared bonds and common purpose as Jews in this emerging 3rd era of Jewish history”. He proposes focusing on “embracing sacred rituals”. Elan Ezrachi and Varda Rafaeli from the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education analyze the state of Jewish Peoplehood education in Israel and propose that the era of “post-negation of the Diaspora” offers a new opportunity for engaging Israelis with Peoplehood. Finally Lisa Grant and Shlomi Ravid, also from CJPE, suggest that the current state of Peoplehood education and the challenges it faces require approaching it as a new educational field in its own right.

As we recently celebrated Shavuot one should note this harvest of the first fruits of Peoplehood nurturing initiatives. Not less impressive are the first Peoplehood pedagogic insights. They both represent a new phase in addressing the Peoplehood challenge. From asking “what is Peoplehood?” we have progressed to asking “how do we nurture Jewish Peoplehood?” While work still remains on the first question the second one holds the promise of actually sustaining the People so they can grapple with these questions for days to come.

This issue of the Peoplehood Papers, beyond our usual distribution, will be disseminated at the ROI, Siach and WCJCS conferences as well as the Partnership2Gether Committee at the Jewish Agency Board of Governor’s meetings. We hope it will enrich their conversations and wish them fruitful discussions.

This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 8Nurturing Jewish Peoplehood in the 21st Century – What Should We Do Differently? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.