Our Millennial Challenge

Most Jewish organizations view Millennials as a monolithic bloc

Last week eJP published an opinion piece by Benji Lovitt titled “Israel Programs: The Case for Tel Aviv.” Lovitt’s premise: Israel has changed over 66 years and our programs should reflect those changes. The post quickly went viral. Yesterday, Dr. Zohar Raviv – Birthright’s International Vice President of Education – weighed in with a response.

In reading the multitude of comments posted on Lovitt’s piece, on Raviv’s, and on Lovitt’s facebook wall, it is apparent the two articles touched a significant nerve. And regardless of where you stand on the “more time in Tel Aviv” suggestion, a more important question is lurking underneath: are those professionals crafting programs keeping up with the times? Are they absorbing, and reacting, to the simple fact that today’s young adults are different than yesterday’s?

In this regard, eJP believes – as a whole – many of our organizations are failing. Specifically, the professionals crafting young adult initiatives in Israel are disconnected and pretty much “out to lunch” from what is happening on the ground, at least in North America.

The Generation Gap discussion is probably as old as history. However, a landmark study released last year by MTV (an acknowledged stakeholder with this audience) posits that to stay at the forefront with Millennials – the largest generation in history – “we need to deeply understand the rising tide of those who will soon be our core audience.” Not only that, the study shows meaningful differences between Millennials under 17 vs. those older.

Do our organization professionals designing these Israel programs have this type of awareness? Are they keeping up with the cascade of valuable information effecting the very demographic they are planning programs for? Over at the planning offices for the Prime Minister’s Initiative they’re certainly not. They are relying on focus groups managed by professional facilitators who do not have first hand experience with their target audience.

At The Jewish Agency, one of the largest organizations designing programs for the young adult/Millennial demographic, there is no-one in management who understands the Millennial audience (this according to present Agency employees). These are the people we are entrusting our communal future and hundreds of millions of dollars/year to?

On several fronts the Pew Report was a wake-up call. The challenges are certainly many. But if we continue to design programs and manage our organizations as if we are still in the 20th century, we all lose.

The Jewish community cannot afford such a “hit.”