Two Opinions: The Jewish Future

Dr. Jonathan Sarna in The London Jewish Chronicle:

Communal life after the recession

We need new ideas – and ideals – to meet radical change in the Jewish world

So, what does the future hold? One week, we hear that intermarriage is going through the roof, and the next that new Jewish day schools are bursting at the seams.

Will the Jewish community be able to identify a mission compelling enough for young Jews to become passionate about? Certainly, one emergent trend is that of “sweat equity” – young, creative, technologically savvy Jews giving time to causes that inspire them. Expect to see more of this in the months ahead.

But the great causes that once energised contemporary Jewry – immigrant absorption; saving European, Soviet, Arab and Ethiopian Jewry; creating and sustaining a Jewish state – have now been successfully completed. For the first time in living memory, no large community of persecuted Jews exists anywhere in the diaspora. Twenty-first-century, young western Jews are unlikely to gain the kind of meaning from helping Israel, keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust and fighting antisemitism as their parents did.

Diaspora Jews are the poorer for not having a well-defined, elevating mission to inspire us. Once the economic downturn is behind us, the goal of formulating a new and compelling mission for our Jewish community needs to be high on our collective agenda.

Rabbi Hayim Herring writing in Tools for Shuls:

The Jewish Future: Probable, Possible, Preferable – A Response to Dr. Steven Windmueller

Far before the economic crisis, 5 significant transitions, that spanned several decades, have occurred in American culture. We have transitioned from or are currently transitioning from the age of:

  • national community organizations to local organizations and interest groups;
  • institutions to networks;
  • oligarchies to democracy;
  • hoarding knowledge to generously sharing it; and
  • exclusivity to inclusivity.

These overlapping transitions have also impacted upon the American Jewish community and its historical and emerging organizations.

Without minimizing the irreparable economic pain of the moment, none of these transitions are related to the economic crisis nor are our responses to them dependent upon large sums of money. Rather, they’re about values, new thinking and capabilities.

…As Windmueller notes, we’re going to see continued downsizing of organizations. But that means we have to upsize our ideas and creativity. What we’ve lost economically, we can compensate for in large measure with ideas, technologies and vision. We can create the preferable future of a proud and flourishing Jewish community. If we let the current data drive us to darkness, the fault will be ours.