Strategic Directions for Jewish Life: A Call to Action

October 1, 2015

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


Marking the 2nd anniversary of the release of the 2013 Pew Research Center’s Portrait of Jewish Americans, a highly diverse group of thought leaders from all around the United States has framed a “Statement on Jewish Vitality,” advocating strategic responses to respond to the challenges to the Jewish future.

American Jewry now stands at a crossroads. Our choices are stark: we either accept as inevitable the declining numbers of engaged Jews, or we work to expand the community and improve the quality of Jewish life going forward.

Despite the evidence of deeply disturbing population trends, the community is bereft of any sense of crisis. Today’s near-inaction bespeaks a self-imposed helplessness. The time to mobilize the Jewish community to adopt effective policies and programs is now.

In light of these deeply unsettling trends, we call for: A communal mobilization campaign aimed at policy makers and philanthropists, conveying two messages:

  • The decline of the Jewish “Middle” must be recognized: We are seeing severe declines in the “Jewish Middle” – Jewishly engaged individuals and communities outside of Haredi Orthodoxy.
  • Effective responses are feasible: We can significantly influence the size, character, commitment and Judaic capacity of this Jewish Middle.

To put this another way, if current trends continue unchecked, the American Jewish community will grow smaller and less vital.

In brief, we need to advance on multiple fronts in the coming years. The American Jewish community needs:

  • A communal mobilization campaign
  • Diminished costs for day school tuition
  • More emphasis upon quality supplemental schooling that extends at least seven years
  • Major investment in low-cost Jewish summer camps
  • Thousands of Jewish teenagers traveling to Israel
  • Significant expansion of Jewish youth groups
  • Congregations prioritizing their teenagers
  • More outreach-oriented and pluralist rabbis, both on and off campus
  • Jewish cultural events, prayer communities, and learning activities among Jewish young adults
  • Retreat experiences for young couples and families
  • Jewish Public Health Education aimed at parents and grandparents
  • Continue and expand Birthright Israel’s numbers

We believe these steps are not only urgently necessary for a healthier Jewish future, but are also achievable in our time.

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Oct. 15, 2015