Why Jewish Engagement, L’Dor Va’Dor?

May. 02, 2014

Source: AVI CHAI Blog 


Why and towards what ends are we engaging in Jewish engagement to begin with? To me, the answer is clear: We should engage the next generation around our powerful Jewish values and texts, which form the very foundation of the Jewish people. We should engage them around our raison d’être of being a unique and extraordinary people with a storied heritage and purpose in the world. I believe the Jewish people’s compelling value proposition comes through embodying, teaching, creating community around, and yes, engaging, in the texts and values, which are our birthright and heritage. It is vital that we start from this position of strength, of having something concrete and in fact precious to offer the next generation and all generations to come. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming no more than the crumbling institutions referenced – and it will be no wonder when young Jews walk away.


Should those of the next generation decide to unleash their energies toward Jewish causes, their motivation and inspiration needs to stem from an interest in Jewish values, commitments, and peoplehood. Otherwise, if such efforts are not grounded in Jewish values and texts, I ask: What makes them uniquely Jewish? Or, speaking of a raison d’être: Why does the Jewish people need to continue to exist in order to perpetuate them?


Here’s what I envision when I think about what is needed in Jewish engagement of the next generation. It’s about more than the younger generation having an equal seat at the table, or even equal decision-making power. First, there needs to be a sense of why they are sitting there making decisions in the first place. This understanding must be rooted in knowledge, in the form of 1) an appreciation for and familiarity with the Jewish texts and values which are the basis for work in the Jewish community, and 2) the generations’ appreciation for and familiarity with one another.


What if we could create a multi-generational dialogue around what it means to be Jewish today, and why be Jewish in today’s world? This conversation would need to be a give-and-take with both sides learning from one another. On one side: What exactly does a “complex personal identity” entail, and how could it serve to enact the Jewish mission in the world? On the other: How and why were today’s Jewish establishments created, and what Jewish mission do they seek to achieve? What if we could learn about Jewish texts and values together? Through doing so, we would each gain a better understanding both of what we are learning, and also of the others’ perspective on Judaism – and on life.

Read the entire post at the AVI CHAI Blog.

Updated: May. 28, 2014