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Is this the next wave in Jewish community or just the same old thing?

This article in Zeek magazine product of the Jewish  Forward) aptly describes the ways that young Jews are connecting to Jewish community through justice organizations, Community Based Organizing, and through Food!  They have changed the landscape completely of the Jewish community.

The ongoing rejection of traditional Jewish institutions is troubling however.  Perhaps it is not troubling  for the 20’s and 30’s folks but  it is for their parents and grandparents and it will be for their children.

Justice organizing and Jewish organizations that do justice work are critically important but they are not replacements for the synagogue community, JCC’s or even social services like Jewish Family Services and Jewish Vocational Services. If these parts of the community are decimated and bankrupted by a generation who may not yet need their services but inevitably through the march of time will need their programming and services, we as a Jewish community will fail.  Love all the work of AJWS! Support them. Had Ruth Messinger speak at temple this past year! But AJWS won’t be providing nursery school when these kids have kids.   Community Based Organizing is making inroads in advocacy and helping with political change but in the end won’t address a spiritual crisis that comes with a parents’ death.

Jewish funders need to think bigger than they are. They want to fund new and innovative programming often at the expense of these more traditional Jewish communal institutions that are still delivering high quality and important work.

I am always amazed that Jewish funders of late seem to want to give hordes of dollars to remake the Jewish world in their own image.  While the traditional synagogue and JCC struggle to continue meeting “them” where they are.

Why not understand that we need both. Not one over the other. Not just justice organizations that seem sexy for the moment but as these kids age and get married and have their own kids–they too will have their priorities shift.  It is inevitable –it always does.

Let’s hope it is not to late!

3 thoughts on “Is this the next wave in Jewish community or just the same old thing?”

  1. Great post, Denise, as always.

    Let me suggest, however, that Congregation-Based Community Organizing isn’t actually about advocacy and political change so much as it’s about transforming our communities, both externally AND internally. Good community organizers, coming out of the Alinsky model but transcending it, know this, and so they are as concerned with the health of the congregations that make up the broad-based organization as they are with the particular issue on the organization’s plate. They know that it is actually in the self-interest of the broad-based organization that the synagogue pre-school be healthy and strong, and that the synagogue’s caring community be vital and useful. Otherwise, who will there be to transform the world?

    In my experience, IAF organizers are delighted to work with me on issues internal to the synagogue, even as they count on me to provide some weight and power when we need to be before local government demanding accountability for the downtrodden.

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