The Unfolding Economic Crisis: Its Devastating Implications for American Jewry

July 20, 2009

Source: Institute for Global Jewish Affairs of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs' (JCPA)


In this sobering paper, Dr. Steven Windmueller, director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, discusses the multidimensional effects of the global economic crisis on American Jewry, its institutions, leadership and way of life. He indicates that its full impact may not be felt for years to come.


Among the points he makes:

  • The full impact of the current economic crisis may not be felt for years. In the midst of it, core institutions are being fundamentally reshaped and individual lifestyles reconstructed. These economic challenges threaten the existing infrastructure of the American Jewish community, leading to a new order of institutions and leaders.
  • The changes are already having a social and psychological impact on American Jewry. For many older Jews, many of their core institutional patterns of personal engagement have been altered. For younger Jews, the dislocations may foster opportunities for further experimentation and disengagement from the traditional patterns.
  • The long-term outcome of the transformation is likely to be a far weaker, less cohesive American Jewish community. As the economy moves beyond the current crisis and as institutions adjust, a new leadership will also likely emerge that will need to draw on the lessons of this period. The “new” American Jewish scene they will inherit will display a smaller communal and religious system with fewer resources.
  • A communal system weakened by scandal and economic dislocation will inevitably be less powerful. The internal and organizational changes will recast the role of Jews within the larger society as well.
Updated: Jul. 29, 2009