What does it take to build a thriving future for the Jewish people?
You need synagogues, schools, adult education, bakeries, grocery stores, kosher restaurants, and mikvahs. These institutions are all very important. When people think about Jewish community, we often think in terms of the institutions and organizations that serve the community. These critical institutional elements for sure part of healthy Jewish communal life, but at the center of all of this is people. It’s the people, and their enthusiasm and willingness to be engaged in Jewish life that animates all the other elements. You can have buildings and schools and restaurants, but if there’s nobody to go to them, what are they?
Sometimes, it happens, we ignore a critical part — growing the number of people in the center. We become focused on the other elements that go into making Jewish community. It happens not out of malice, but because there are only so many things that each person can work on. People who are already engaged in the communal institutions tend to focus on keeping them going, and the job of growing the community falls by the waist-side. In reality, Jews and Jewish families are the center of a hub and all the other elements around it are dependent upon that nucleus of people.
However, due to many factors, people drift away from the community. And we are losing people every day. We lose people who feel there is no spiritual home for them. We lose people who didn’t enjoy the Jewish upbringing they had, and haven’t experienced anything else. We lose people who don’t realize how much Judaism has to offer as a lifestyle to help them thrive in today’s world. We lose people who can’t find a spouse in the community. And for many other reasons too.
This is one of the main reasons why our programs and projects focus so much on community building efforts with post-grads, and millennial Jews, and young couples — attracting and engaging people from across the Jewish spectrum into a deeper connection with Jewish life and community.
The Jewish community will thrive most when we ensure that we bring along everyone with us. A critical part of our mission is to not just show people that they are needed in the Jewish community, but to make them feel welcome, and that they are integral part of us having a thriving Jewish future.