The Flourishing of American Judaism

Haviv Rettig Gur writing in The Jerusalem Post:

Pushing the envelope

Federations form the funding backbone of Jewish life in the United States. In the vast expanse of synagogues, schools, political and advocacy organizations, religious associations, youth groups – all the ways American Jews gather – the federations are the only place where hassidic and Reform, affiliated and distant, young and old, sit together at the table and consider carefully the educational and welfare needs of some 5 million American Jews.

In a Jewish civilization without government, the federations are the closest you can come to comprehensive organization.

So the question of how North America’s 157 federations communicate and coordinate – to lobby their leaders, to fund Jewish schools, to help Israelis in crisis or poverty-stricken Ukrainian Jews – is a critical one. And it is on that question that the Jewish Federations of North America, until a few weeks ago called the United Jewish Communities (UJC), meets in Washington DC on November 8 for its annual General Assembly.

Ahead of the gathering, The Jerusalem Post spoke to the new leaders of the federation network, chief executive Jerry Silverman and incoming top lay leader Kathy Manning, who insist that the federations will continue helping Israel’s poor even as Israel comes through the financial crisis in better shape than the federations, that contrary to the popular imagination, the federations are at the center of Jewish innovation in America, that the “iPod generation” can be folded into Jewish life and that the future of American Jewry, despite the constant wrist-wringing of Jews through the ages, is bright.