Thursday, November 5, 2009

NY native on making St. Louis home


I admire Barry Rosenberg’s comprehensive assessment of the St. Louis Jewish community’s needs and recommendations for our future in his recent essay “Toward Thriving.” I read and comprehended as much as my internet-addled, child-distracted mind could muster. As a self-centered baby boomer, I brought the subject matter back to me and wondered, “What would cause me to put down roots in St. Louis in 2009 and beyond?”
Now that I’ve put that out there, let me add that I grew up in New York. So you have a pampered boomer who grew up among the nation’s most concentrated population of American Jewry. My needs were met: supportive family, good schools, and most importantly, good food. Let’s not underestimate the significance of this last need. Having a wide array of good bagels, deli and baked goods was indicative of a thriving Jewish community, as well as an environment that things Jewish were in demand, not only from our own people but also from the secular community at-large.

Thank goodness for the Bagel Factory and Kohn’s, to name two of our local treasures.
Growing up, at Passover, and during the High Holidays, gentile friends would wish an unsolicited “Happy Passover” and “Happy New Year.” It felt good to be acknowledged and accepted. Having lived in St. Louis on-and-off since 1985, I know that our city’s openness to different cultures and ideals can be a challenge. It’s less a religious mindset than a reserved, cautious “Show Me” approach. Now, I’m in television advertising, and I like to “show” ideas to people as often as possible. Our St. Louis Jewish community does a wonderful job of putting itself out there, serving the less fortunate and trying to make our world a better place, “Tikkun Olam.” Without taking an “evangelical” approach, I do believe there is room to proactively promote the causes, charities and outreach programs that are important to the Jewish community.

Paid and donated public service announcements on television and in other media can present a positive message that Jews in St. Louis are proud of their heritage, actively engaged and welcoming to newcomers. No, we are not recruiting or evangelizing; we are shedding a little sunlight on our culture and our causes.

And, St. Louis itself could use a little sunshine. I agree with Mr. Rosenberg and others that we must do whatever we can to help all of St. Louis thrive. The Jewish American of 2009 has many of the same desires as anyone else: make a good living so I can support my family; lead as vibrant an existence as possible with whatever energy is left over; try to leave a net-positive “kharmic footprint.”

Other than promoting bagels and pastrami, what can we do? Support one another and our community at-large. Advocate and enable a hospitable business and cultural environment. Help St. Louis to shine as we celebrate our own uniqueness. Aggressively pursue the qualities we want our region to embody. Look outward as we look inward. Be politically active and encourage openness rather than provincialism. Reach out to our academic institutions, such as Washington University, to welcome and nurture students whose time in St. Louis may last a few years or a lifetime.

I take it as a given that we are all trying to be the best people we can be, including the best Jews we can be. Now, let’s take that sense of self and purpose and help St. Louis to be the best it can be. Perhaps we can make St. Louis as inviting to others as we have discovered it to be for ourselves. And, hey, the food’s pretty good, too!

A native of Great Neck, N.Y., Bill Goodfriend oversees sports and political ad sales for Charter Media, an advertising sales arm of Charter Communications, in the Midwest. He lives in Clayton with his wife and son and is a member of Central Reform Congregation.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thoughtful discussion needed from all parts of the community


Last weekend I was asked to give a D’var Torah by the kind members of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel congregation. The parshah was Noach, and I was asked to talk about the relationship of this portion to modern environmentalism.

The basic thrust of the D’var related to elements of the debate rabbis have had for centuries concerning Noah. Sure, he follows God’s orders to the letter in his ark preparation and animal gathering. But he expresses no outrage about the destruction of the world that precedes the flood.

Noah’s obeisance has been interpreted by some as troubling: Though he was described in the Torah as a righteous man in his time, it seems that Noah’s brand of righteousness is a narrowly proscribed one, doing only what God specifically asks of him. There’s nary a suggestion that he is capable of using that most precious of God’s gifts — free will — to assert himself regarding the impending doom of all humankind.

It is in this context that I’ve contemplated Barry Rosenberg’s piece on the thriving of the St. Louis Jewish community. As past weeks’ respondents have noted, Rosenberg is to be commended for raising the issues critical to our future success.

Rosenberg outlines nine areas of concern that emanate from four key goals. It’s apparent from the responses so far that certain of these areas — particularly encouraging young Jewish adults to stay in or come to St. Louis — resonate more than others with our analysts to date, who comprise rabbis and lay Jewish and community professionals.

If you read Rosenberg’s piece and the responses, then you realize that this is not a mere hypothetical exercise. If the desired outcome is ultimately to match scarce human and financial resources to key priorities, then we need to have a hardcore community debate about those things we deem most critical to our prosperity.

It is easy for us in the communications business to encourage and even facilitate the debate, but to do so is no guarantee of success. You as community members represent the fulcrum that will push the dialogue in a constructive manner. Maybe the initial stages will feel uncomfortable, but I am not aware of any successful decision-making process that didn’t struggle through the voicing of various opinions.

Perhaps you believe your voice will make no difference. Perhaps you’re jaded in your conception that leaders or funders have guided the agenda for so long that your opinion will be ignored. Perhaps you are a member of a subgroup of the Jewish community that has been the focus of criticism from others within this same community, and you have “checked out” on participation.

My response to all of these concerns falls within the prescription of tough love:
Get over it, jump in and tell us what you think.

Believe me, I understand that we as a community haven’t always handled our discussions in the most respectful way. We see that reflected sometimes in the harsh language of letters to this publication.

But as we’ve noted in these pages previously, the only path to achdut (unity) is through dialogue and fair debate. Otherwise, we will by our inaction allow the path to be defined by a small number of folks who have, through resources, committed involvement or other means of influence, guided the process in the past.

That won’t pass muster this time. Rosenberg isn’t answering the questions, he’s posing them. If he, in conjunction with his lay Federation leadership, is asked without input to decide which of these nine areas gets the gelt and the attention, then we only have ourselves to blame if the roads taken or results reached are inadequate.

If you allow Rosenberg to both ask and answer the questions, then you haven’t fulfilled the responsibility that accompanies free will. And our community will be diminished by your lack of involvement.

Our St. Louis Jewish community will only be as strong as the collective wisdom, energy and resources that are invested in it by all of you. It’s your time to speak and speak loudly. Don’t ignore your chance.

Larry Levin is Publisher/CEO of the St. Louis Jewish Light.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Making the world thrive through tikkun olam


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

I am a tikkun olam junkie. Finding stuff to do in the community — especially the Black community — that repairs it, empowers it — makes my socks go up and down. I love tutoring little Leon at Confluence Academy and training police recruits and Sigma Aldrich employees to read with kids in the St. Louis Public Schools.
While I know I’m but one of many Jewish volunteers in our community, what if we all stepped it up? What if we all performed more mitzvoth and g’milut hasadim (acts of loving kindness) and gave a little more tzedakah (justice and righteousness)? What if, as a community, it became a way of life for more of us?
Tikkun olam and relationship building are my answers to questions posed by Barry Rosenberg last month in the Jewish Light: What is our vision for the future of St. Louis and American Jewish life? What must we do today, to ensure we thrive in the future?
For us to thrive, everyone has to thrive. And how do we make that happen? By having our Jewish community see tikkun olam as our responsibility. By pitching in and doing our part. Our responsibility to change, improve, and fix our earthly surroundings is powerful and huge — no question about it. It implies that each of us has a hand in working toward the betterment of our community, as well as the lives of future generations.
Tikkun olam means working in all communities, not just Jewish communities. We Jews are members of the wider community, and as such, our actions must not be limited to our own communities. Helping those who are in need, no matter in what capacity, is crucial and “holy” work.
It is said that the ultimate goal of mitzvot is for moral and religious values and deeds to permeate the Jewish people and ultimately the entire world. A vision of social justice is rooted in the Jewish commandment to remember the experience of slavery and the Exodus from Egypt because “we are all harmed by oppression directed at any group or individual.”
And make no mistake. We still have oppression in our region. Disparities and inequities permeate all aspects of our society - economic, social, and psychological, and affect education, healthcare, the criminal justice system and economic development. Our community needs to change. We need to be more inclusive, decrease bias and discrimination and increase equality.
I’m proud to know that we American Jews have a rich history of championing the cause of social justice in our country, like when we were at the forefront of the Labor movement and the Civil Rights Movement. The problems we have today — racism, poverty, illiteracy, lack of healthcare for all — are just as great, if not greater, than they were during the Jim Crow era, though not as visible to many of us in our self-segregated neighborhoods. But out of sight is not out of mind and too many people in our community need our help. There is no end to helping all people who don’t have our opportunities.
Opportunities for service to repair or perfect the world are endless: There are so many times we need to stand up and speak out; there are too many students who read below grade level who we could tutor; we all have neighbors who need a ride to the doctor. What about going with your family to help build a house, volunteer at the Kornblum Food Pantry, serve at a soup kitchen. Doing these things, especially with our families, sets an example and is as important a lesson as piano, or gymnastics or even Hebrew!
To thrive we need to have “the right people on the bus” to use a phrase from Good to Great. We are the right people. It’s our mandate to pursue social justice and righteousness. Tikkun olam is right up our alley. Tikkun olam is G-d’s work. It is tzedakah. It gives us a world where everyone thrives, including the Jews.

Karen Kalish is founder and executive director of Cultural Leadership.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bringing Jews to area is key to future

By Rabbi Mark L. Shook

Planning for the future is risky business. Barry Rosenberg’s paper on the future of the Jewish community in St. Louis is therefore an act of courage. Someone needs to take the first step, and who better, than the person who provides the professional leadership of our Jewish Federation. But therein hides a potential problem. Federation leadership cannot afford to alienate sectors of the community. Strategic planning ideas cannot anger major donors or potential major donors, even when those ideas have great merit. In an effort to be all inclusive and diplomatic, it is difficult for Mr. Rosenberg to talk tachlis — to say what is truly on his mind, or to propose solutions that may work but disappoint dedicated community volunteers.

Toward Thriving is also an unbalanced approach to the future of Jewish life in St. Louis. There is an emphasis on developing strong and effective St. Louis ties to Israel. Some may question the assumption that Rosenberg accepts as a given, that Israel is the center of Jewish civilization. I have no problem with calling for the promotion and celebration of Israel. In measuring the creativity of all aspects of Jewish culture, Israel is far from being the exclusive center. In a sense, it appears that the driving purpose behind Mr. Rosenberg’s paper is to create a Jewish community that will not shirk its responsibilities toward Jewish philanthropy. Certainly a very worthy goal, but without Jews there will be no Jewish donors.

It is only when he discusses the need to retain and attract young Jews to St. Louis that he touches on the true heart of the matter. Developing strategies that bring more Jews to St. Louis should be the priority. Everything else, with careful planning and execution will follow. The Midwest is losing demographic ground to the South and the West. Jewish schools of all types cannot exist without Jewish children. In spite of Mr. Rosenberg’s effort to leave external factors out of the discussion, they can only be set aside at our peril. Our world is growing smaller everyday.

Rabbi Mark Shook is Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Opportunities for growth


“Who is wise: One who sees what will become.”
— Mishne Avot.

Barry Rosenberg, Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation, must be credited for crafting an essay laying out his ideas for the future of the Jewish community in St. Louis. As the focus of my work is geared toward developing accessible and meaningful Jewish educational experiences for college students and young adults, much of the essay is beyond the scope of my work.
I wish to add two ideas to the discussion. A comment on attracting young Jews to St. Louis based on my discussions with young people; and a thought on a topic dear to me — and quite relevant to a thriving Jewish future — the need for increased Jewish literacy and education.
For St. Louis to be a “preferred community for young Jews,” the region as a whole must thrive.
Young Jews who come to St. Louis for college are mobile and unlikely to stay in St. Louis after they graduate if they will be unemployed or underemployed. Evidence backs this up — each year we survey grad students about what it would take to keep them in St. Louis after they graduate and the most common response is “jobs.” These jobs will emerge out of the overall health of the St. Louis regional economy. If our regional economy is sluggish, it will be that much more challenging for us to compete with larger Jewish metropolises such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles to attract young Jews. On a macro level, there is little we can do as an organized Jewish community to influence these external processes — instead, we ought to engage with civic progress groups to strengthen the general economic base, which, in turn, will directly influence the future of the St. Louis Jewish community.
Jewish literacy and education are topics near to my heart, and I think about them every day.
Much of what ails the Jewish community, such as declining affiliation, philanthropic shrinkage, societal assimilation, can be understood as symptoms of a larger problem — a lack of relevant Jewish education. We must reposition Jewish education as a centerpiece of our community, for investment in Jewish education pays dividends in many areas: leadership development, decision-making, and philanthropy, to name a few. Professor Steven M. Cohen sums it up well: “The results are in: Jewish education works. Studies of specific experiences (e.g., camps, or day schools, or Israel experiences) as well as studies of combinations of experiences document the impact of Jewish education in almost all its varieties shows a striking correlation between Jewish education and involvement.”
Let us develop a culture that values Jewish education of the young, old and everyone in between. Together, we can reclaim knowledge of the treasure-trove of literature that make up our rich spiritual and cultural legacy. This would translate into deepened communal involvement and a greater potential for a thriving Jewish community in St. Louis.
“It is not upon you to complete the task, but you are not free to idle from it,” — Mishne Avot. May we together stride into a Jewishly bright and literate future.

Rabbi Hershey Novack, is director of Chabad on Campus – Rohr Center for Jewish Life.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jewish community’s future depends on engaging a new generation of leaders


“It takes Moses a long time to die,” I commented to a friend in synagogue during the Torah service a few Shabbats ago. My commentary was by no means a reflection of my desire to see Moses take leave of the Israelites. What I noticed were the careful messages and specific instructions Moses imparts to the Israelites over several Torah portions.

Clearly, the final words of Moses and the Torah’s devotion to his words over the course of these many Shabbats are of critical importance to us, the Jewish people. Moses is doing two very important things — engaging in succession planning, with Joshua as the new, younger leader of the Israelites, and relaying a vision for the Jewish people.

I mention my observation of the recent Torah portions because their message came to mind in reading Barry Rosenberg’s article Toward Thriving. The two points I found most striking in Rosenberg’s article on the creation of a thriving Jewish community were those of human resources and the importance of a long-term vision. In fact, I strongly believe that without serious investment in our human resources we will not be able to achieve a long-term vision.

There is nothing more vital to our community vibrancy than the professional and volunteer resources of our community. At the same time, there has not exactly been a groundswell of young people aspiring to work professionally in the Jewish community. And the reasons are numerous: lack of adequate salary and benefits, diminishing opportunities for advancement and professional development, lack of appropriate mentorship and deficient recognition. The reasons for lay involvement of young adults also stems from similar reasons such as lack of guidance and leadership training and unfortunately, an inability to see the relevance of community life to their own lives.

This is incredibly depressing; yet, there are steps to be taken to alleviate the lack of inspiration to community involvement (both professional and lay) and to create atmospheres of inspiration and aspiration to such leadership positions. Our Jewish agencies cannot simply expect young adults to want to work at their agencies. Our agencies and organizations have to create meaningful opportunities that foster and mentor young Jewish leaders by way of paid internships and fellowships and on-going institutes that teach leadership skills such as communication and community landscape. I also believe that our funders and contributors need to move away from funding programs and begin funding people and leaders.

Rosenberg ends his piece by emphasizing the importance of a long-term vision. The question I ask is, “Who will be in the positions to make our community’s critical decisions and craft our vision?” The answer is our future leaders. We need to take serious steps to guide our community priorities to focus on building the leaders who will BE the future of our community.

While Moses’ final days were devoted to reminding the Israelites of their responsibilities, Moses devoted just as much time to the human resource of Joshua, the individual who would lead the Israelites when Moses was no longer there. This is a lesson we as a community need to embrace.

Ronit Sherwin is executive director of Nishmah: The St. Louis Jewish Women’s Project, an organization she co-founded in 2005 with immediate past president Karen Sher.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Toward Thriving


“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
--Lewis Carroll

What is our destination? What is our vision for the future of St. Louis and American Jewish life? What type of Jewish community will our children and grandchildren inherit?

These are questions which each of us, as Jews, should ask, and which community leaders have an ethical responsibility to consider. This article’s purpose is to stimulate community discussion around a proposed framework, in which to consider future Jewish organizational strategy, policy development and day-to-day operational decision-making. Its goal is to ensure the continued thriving of the global Jewish civilization and our local St. Louis Jewish community.

Provided below are significant trends and external conditions, followed by nine proposed broad strategies, which could hopefully shape the ongoing work of local Jewish institutions: Federation, funded agencies, congregations and non-funded organizations.

The information is presented very broadly, as the vision, trends and strategies outlined require greater elaboration to effectively guide action. Neither is there an intent to be encyclopedic — the absence of certain issues and material does not necessarily indicate dismissal of their importance.

While the formulation of this article is mine, it draws on nearly 35 years of professional work in the Jewish community, and the writings and thinking of numerous colleagues, lay leaders and scholars. In particular, it is influenced by the work of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI), a Jerusalem-based think tank charged with assessing the global condition of the Jewish people and putting forth strategic policy recommendations.

Toward Thriving

As a Jewish community, how do we measure success? By sheer numbers? Extent of Jewish literacy and practice? Jewish grandchildren?

I suggest that our destination — our measure of success — is the continued “thriving” of the Jewish civilization and our local St. Louis Jewish community.

JPPPI has put forth a model to consider alternative futures for the Jewish people, based on two major factors:

1. To what degree are external conditions either positive or negative for sustained Jewish life?

2. To what degree is there low or high internal momentum, within the Jewish community?

Weak internal momentum, combined with a negative environment results in decline. Strong internal momentum, within a positive environment, yields the conditions for thriving. Recognizing that the Jewish people has limited influence and no control over external factors, JPPPI asks us to focus strategy and policy development on strengthening the internal factors that either will enable us to defend against hostility or capitalize on opportunity.

Moreover, JPPPI’s perspective is future oriented. It recognizes these are relatively good times for the Jewish people. But what of our children’s future? Because strategies may take years to achieve results, JPPPI suggests leaders have a responsibility to shift resources toward assuring the future thriving of the Jewish civilization. What must we do today, to ensure we thrive in the future?

A Thriving Community

What might a thriving St. Louis Jewish community look like? What will it take to sustain positive internal momentum, whereby we retain and attract Jewish population and inspire an increasing proportion of the population to choose Jewish identity and engagement?

• A St. Louis region that offers high quality education, economic and recreational opportunities, and poses no barriers to our full participation in society. We cannot thrive unless St. Louis thrives.

• A critical population mass, sufficient to support a broad array of core institutions and services that meet Jewish needs, enrich Jewish life and offer extensive social opportunities.

• Physical security and deterrence of physical threat.

• Adequate food, housing and health services for all Jewish residents and mechanisms to identify, protect and care for those who cannot do so for themselves.
• High quality institutions and organizations that are warm, accessible and welcoming; and led by passionate, skilled and inspirational leaders and employees.
They deliver a broad range of affordable religious, educational, cultural and recreational activities and services that help individuals find meaning, direction and joy in Jewish life.

• A high level of social cohesion across Jewish population groups, a relative absence of organizational conflict and a sustained capacity for collective decision-making and action.

• A climate that encourages and nurtures creativity, innovation, renewal and continuous improvement in Jewish life.

• Participation in a thriving national and international Jewish community.

Conditions and Trends

The American Jewish condition is one of full acceptance in American society, low birthrate, high mobility, dispersion, loss of Jewish neighborhoods, smaller Jewish social networks, resulting in high assimilation and a shrinking, but aging, population. At the same time we enjoy unprecedented influence and wealth and possess great talent.

Among young Jews we see two growing trends: individualized, idiosyncratic modes of Jewish identity and aversion to traditional institutions (the sovereign self), and declining allegiance to Jewish particularism, collective identity and Israel.
Our region, experiencing sluggish growth and economic vitality, offers limited attraction to young, single Jews – native or those who arrive for University.

Globally, there is near total Jewish freedom. Israel — soon to house the majority of Jews — enjoys a strong economy coupled with a growing local philanthropic and civil sector. Yet, there are severe geo-political threats to its security, rising global anti-Semitism, and consequent collateral threats to Jews worldwide. The intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and America’s war fatigue pose a risk to traditional American solidarity with Israel. America’s diminished global stature may mean that other nations (including the emerging superpowers of China and India) will assert greater influence on Middle East affairs.

Declining government funding, declining market share of Jewish philanthropy and shrinking memberships have left many local organizations weak or in crisis. This has worsened in the current economy.

There is an insufficient pool of talented volunteer and professional leaders.

A Framework for Policy Development

There are many factors that impact thriving. However, I have concluded that the following four areas require priority attention and significantly enhanced resources:
1) Ensuring Israeli and Jewish security.

2) Ensuring the Jewish identity and engagement of the next generation.

3) Creating a vibrant local Jewish community that will retain and attract young Jewish population to St. Louis.

4) Building and strengthening the community’s infrastructure to meet the present and future challenges.

A note about number 4: In the non-profit world, there is an understandable, but counter-productive, tendency to think about infrastructure costs as “overhead.” In the face of great need, we are motivated to cut overhead and put more dollars into direct service. But without an adequate infrastructure, our investments in service are likely to be less than fully effective or efficient.

Sophisticated financial management systems, modern information and communication technology, ongoing facility maintenance and repairs should contribute to greater impact in the long run. Likewise, investments in professional and volunteer training, because people are at the heart of everything we hope to achieve. Perhaps less apparent are needs for research and data analysis, effective volunteer governance systems and adequate support staff structures that enable professional staff to use their time to perform professional functions.

The four goals, defined above, encompass nine general strategies:

• Proactive protection of global and local Jewish security. As advocates for Israel and Jewish security, we should emphasize building relationships and mobilizing support among non-Jewish influentials and promote public policies such as energy independence. Locally, we should invest in meaningful deterrence and defensive security measures, including hardening facilities, intelligence gathering, crisis and emergency planning and management.

• Expansion and integration of Jewish identity and engagement efforts. Proven-effective programs and services should be expanded, strengthened and made more affordable. New signature programs like PJ Library should be developed and the options for entry into Jewish life expanded. Using a proactive, individualized ‘concierge’ model of outreach, individuals should be guided to those doorways most appropriate for them and then helped to build on each successive experience, to create a rich, progressive and fuller Jewish identity.

• Nurture deep connections and engagement with Israel and global Jewish peoplehood. Jewish schools should actively incorporate an understanding and appreciation of our place within a global Jewish people. Israel as the center of Jewish civilization should be promoted and celebrated. Israel travel, especially for young Jews, should be dramatically increased and made more affordable. Hebrew literacy, Israeli art and culture and sophisticated knowledge of the reality of Israel (not mythology) should be promoted. Projects, such as Jewish service corps, that engage young Jews with peers in Israel and around the world should be expanded.

• Retain and attract young Jews to St. Louis. New strategies, institutions and programs are required to develop a more vibrant and inviting community for young people. Professional internships and mentorships, early career support and professional networking, enhanced social and recreational opportunities, reduced membership fees, expanded social action and cultural programs, increased opportunities to take leadership roles and specialized concierge services should be employed to make St. Louis a preferred community for young Jews. The community must support new styles of informal, grass-roots engagement that many young people prefer.

• Heavy investment in human resources. The volunteer and professional leadership ranks of the community must be expanded, trained and developed. We need more people with strategic vision, planning, governance and management skills, and the personal influence to mobilize others. Jewish literacy and knowledge of contemporary Jewish life must be deepened. Leadership must be diversified along gender, age, economic and professional dimensions, with greater engagement of individuals from business, the arts and academia. Volunteer and professional succession planning is needed. We must improve the quality of professional employees, and nurture and train inspirational religious leaders, teachers and youth workers. Organizations should address policy and organizational culture to make Jewish organizations ‘great places to work.’

• Create open, accessible and welcoming Jewish institutions. Organizational change and training must occur to ensure that initial and subsequent engagements with Jewish organizations are positive and satisfying. A customer satisfaction culture should be cultivated. Language, social and cultural barriers should be eliminated. Those Jewish organizations that are restrictive for religious or ideological reasons should develop procedures to refer and gently move people to more welcoming and accessible organizations.

• Increase investment and use of technology, to connect, educate and manage. We must engage and communicate with younger generations on their terms. We need to use technology to reduce distance, create community and increase our sense of global peoplehood. We must capitalize on communication, education and management technologies to provide greater opportunity, improve service, facilitate participation in governance and reduce costs.

• Build the capacity for collective decision-making and action. A commitment to collective responsibility should be taught in Jewish schools and built into the culture of Jewish organizational life. Umbrella organizations that convene and coordinate other organizations should be supported and maintained. Research and policy analysis should be supported and widely disseminated.

• Undertake institutional & programmatic realignment. With reduced population, affiliation and demand for some services, we must reduce costly excess infrastructure. Consolidation should be pursued to increase efficiency or effectiveness. To meet new and expanded priorities, we must reduce or eliminate investments in institutions and activities which persist, based on tradition, loyalty or inertia, but do not make a significant impact on thriving. There must also be a willingness, when necessary, to create new institutions to achieve new goals.


In his recent history of American Judaism, Jonathan Sarna offers a bi-polar view of the state of American Jewry.
On one hand, we experience enormous success, vitality and creativity. On the other, we see evidence and threats of serious decline. Likewise, globally our unprecedented success is countered by dangerous and perhaps existential security threats.
Every day, we make countless decisions that will ultimately determine which way the pendulum swings.
A long-term vision is essential to provide the proper context for those decisions. I hope that this article contributes to the creation of that vision and the essential strategies necessary to achieve it, for the sake of the generations to come.

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