Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund
The Jewish Federations of North America
Wall Street Station
PO Box 148
New York, NY 10268
Jewish Federations have a proud tradition of supporting the Jewish communal response to disasters around the world and at home, raising tens of millions of dollars for emergency assistance and longer-term aid. Most recently, Federations supported the national response to severe flooding in Colorado. In recent years, Federations responded to tsunamis in Japan and southeast Asia, the Haiti earthquake, and Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast.
KEEPING THE FAITH
The newly released Pew Report, an independent national survey, details the size, belief, practices and attributes of the U.S. Jewish population. Among the questions asked was what does it mean to be Jewish: 73% said remembering the Holocaust, 69% said leading an ethical/moral life, 56% declared working for justice and equality, 49% thought being intellectually curious was critical to their identity, 43% care about Israel and 42% said having a good sense of humor.
So here’s an antiquated Jewish joke: Shmuel sends a telegram (I told you it was an old joke) to Dovid: “Start worrying. Details to follow.” We have the data now and it’s no laughing matter:
should we worry?
I am a constant, even obsessive observer of the Jewish community so I was not shocked with the findings of the Pew Report. It was clear from the New York Times Sunday Style section that more Jews are intermarrying. We can see by membership in our synagogues that only one third of Jews belong to organized Jewish houses of worship. Jews are less observant and there are more who describe themselves as “nones”, Jews of no religion. Apparently, there are fewer Jews in the pews!
Remember the folk tale of Chicken Little who often predicted the sky was falling? For some, the Pew Report is described as a death knell, unremittingly grim, with little to celebrate besides Birthright Israel, PJ Library and that we are better educated and wealthier than most Americans.
Funnier too, it would seem.
Many Jewish leaders are “cutting kri’ah”, bemoaning and mourning the terminal condition of American Jewry. The study will spur debate on the questions, issues and tensions that confront us.
It should challenge our complacency as we face two contradicting trends simultaneously: assimilation and revitalization.
Our history suggests that today, as so often before, we will find creative ways to maintain and revitalize. We will need to address these issues as a nation, as a community, in our organizations, agencies and synagogues as well as in the new independent groups that are developing.
Jew by Jew.
It will come as no surprise to you that I love Judaism, I love the Jewish people, and I love the State of Israel. I am a practicing Jew and I believe that for me, for my family, and, in a grand way, for the world, being Jewish adds immeasurable value. But I do not see the Pew Report as only gloom and doom.
I see it as an opportunity, a wake-up call.
We have always faced existential threat. American Jewry is only different because we, who have lived at the margins in the Diaspora, often despised and reviled, have learned to feel so completely at home in the warm embrace of the beneficence of American society.
We must create Jewish pathways for every Jew, bold initiatives in which they will be partners. The phenomenon of the unaffiliated Jew is not the problem; they must be part of the solution. In February, we will be bringing Dr. Ron Wolfson to New Haven as a community scholar. He has written a recent book which enjoins us to develop Jewish encounters that are based on relationships and not transactions. If we are to engage young people, we need to move away from “pay-to-play” Judaism. With your help, that of visionary leaders, committed laity, creative professionals, and generous philanthropists, the generation of “vanishing” Jews will be succeeded by another and another generation.
“A nation dying for thousands of year”, observed the great Jewish philosopher Simon Rawidowicz, means a living nation. Our incessant dying means uninterrupted living, rising, standing up, and beginning anew. If we are the last - let us be the last as our fathers and forefathers were. Let us prepare the ground for the Jews who come after us, and for the last Jews who will rise after them, and so on until the end of days.”
Our generation must begin anew, to transform our community, a community in atrophy, into a community of Judaic energy and creativity.
If our lengthy experience taught us anything, it is that by recognizing and re-engaging the “nones”, those who think to be a Jew doesn’t need community, and shared culture, we can listen and learn how to provide an explosion of new connections, services, and programs resulting in a Judaism which not only survives but thrives.
Let’s keep the faith.
In an era of often bewildering change, many of us find comfort and fulfillment in helping others through the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign. This is true because Jews are hard-wired to care for those less fortunate than ourselves … and to contribute what we can to improving the quality of life in our community. We also have a responsibility to ‘pay it forward’ for the benefit of the generations who will come after us.
Did you know that your contribution to the JCC Send a Kid to Camp Scholarship Fund, for example, pays it forward by helping to provide positive, formative summer experiences to those who might not otherwise be able to afford them.
Paying it forward means helping Jewish Family Service to operate a food pantry and provide counseling for a woman who is being verbally abused. Your gift to Federation helps with these programs, too.
When the Federation allocates money for Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy, Ezra Academy, Hebrew High School of New England, or the Jewish High School of Connecticut, we are paying it forward. That’s because the Jewish education the children receive will provide a strong foundation for their adult lives.
The story goes on and on. Every contribution to the Annual Campaign strengthens Jewish life in greater New Haven by helping people. Make a gift to the 2014 Annual Campaign.