The Role of the Professional in Developing and Shaping Jewish Communal Policies and Strategies

[eJP note: The following represents an excerpt from a seminal essay prepared by Ralph I. Goldman for the International Conference of Jewish Communal Service (the forerunner to today’s World Council of Jewish Communal Service). The Goldman paper was distributed prior to the 1981 ICJCS Quadrennial in Jerusalem. It provided the background and informed deliberations and discussions by Conference participants. Although written several decades ago, it is noteworthy how much of Goldman’s comments are so relevant to the Jewish communal field in the 21st century.]

Ralph Goldman with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion; photo courtesy Journal of Jewish Communal Service, vol. 81no. 1/2
Ralph Goldman with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion; photo courtesy Journal of Jewish Communal Service, vol. 81 no. 1/2

By Ralph I. Goldman

The Jewish world is not a monolithic entity. There are vast differences – within each community of the Diaspora, between the Diaspora and Israel, and within Israel itself. We must recognize and accept the pluralism of the Jewish world if we are to uphold the ultimate goal of Am Echad – one people. For whatever our cultural and ideo­logical differences, none is as basic as the issues of universal Jewish concern that bind us together: namely, the ensuring of Jewish physical and spiritual survival, the centrality of Israel to Jewish life, and the challenge of coping with the larger environment.

We once associated barbed wire barri­cades and intricate security precautions with Israel. Now we find these concerns on the agenda of Jewish institutions in a number of countries throughout the world. All are on the front lines. More than ever, the concept – “All of Israel is responsible one for an­ other” – must be applied.

We must make this an era of true partner­ship, one that is no longer confined to giver-receiver relationships – a partnership that is firmly grounded in the commonality of chal­lenges we face today – East and West, Israel and Diaspora: protecting Jewish rights, pro­viding for Jewish needy, preserving Jewish identity, promoting Jewish learning, and pre­paring Jewish leadership.

Toward Coordinated Action

Policy and strategy on the international scene must be determined through extensive communication among communities – not only because of the obvious benefits coordi­nation brings but also because of our inter­dependence.

In order to mobilize our forces and bring them to bear on global issues – and to trans­late Jewish values and purpose into realistic achievable programs – each Jewish commu­nal professional bears a personal responsibil­ity:

  1. to develop and deepen Jewish conscious­ness based on knowledge as well as emotional commitment
  2. to strive for excellence in professional competence – management, interpreta­tion, and planning
  3. to demonstrate leadership qualities through initiatives and serve as educator and model for emulation and inspiration
  4. to promote participation of the constitu­ency and balance between the roles of layman and professional
  5. to make effective use of human and fi­nancial resources available to the com­munity

Openness to Change

While working toward coordination, how­ever, we must not stifle opportunities for new initiatives by groups outside the mainstream of the Jewish community – thus providing welcome new agendas and challenges for the Jewish communal service. The opportunities are limitless. We need vision and a creative urge to expand beyond near horizons.

There must also be a recognition that what was good for the Jewish community in one generation may not necessarily be good in another generation; what was necessary in a totalitarian environment may not be appro­priate in a democratic milieu; what was good for Jews before the establishment of a Jewish State may not be applicable in the post-statehood period.

What is also necessary is a Jewish sense of humor to reduce to size our conceptions of yesteryear and to recognize that immortality does not apply to organizations and institu­tions (emphasis added). We must recognize that going out of business is an essential quality of community service – not change for the sake of change, but change because it is necessary and good. Ben-Gurion said, “It is possible to take care of the future only if we examine the chang­ing realities, not only with the eyes of yes­terday … but with insight into the stream of change.”

The role of the professional in this kind of climate calls for practitioners who have flex­ibility of outlook and an acceptance of changing times tempered by limitations of resources and who, above all, are possessed of a vision of the Jewish future and will work toward its realization.

Goldman’s complete essay, “The Role of the Professional in Developing and Shaping Jewish Communal Policies and Strategies,” is available here. It was originally published in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service, Fall/Winter 2005.

eJewish Philanthropy is grateful to the Journal for allowing us to share this timeless article with our readers.