Our ancestor Joseph was known as an interpreter of dreams. He also sought to preserve his family’s ability to remain true to their traditions and faith as the came to Egypt. By helping pave the way for them to settle in Goshen, he ensured his father, bothers and the next generations would be kept somewhat isolated from the influences of Egyptian lifestyle and temptations of assimilation.
Today, liberal American Jews do not live in such isolation. In each generation there is more competition for time and resources. Jewish activities feel less compelling and less time is spent engaged with the Jewish community.
The organized Jewish world has spent a great deal of time over the past month reading, analyzing, writing, hand-wringing, and speaking about A Portrait of Jewish Americans, a study released by Pew Research in early October. (You can find the 200 page report and 20 page summary here.)
The study results offer us a snapshot of the American Jewish community at this point in time. It speaks of Jews who identify by religious affiliation as well as those who indicated they are Jewish yet have “no religion.” It offers data on inter-marriage, feelings about Israel, and community affiliation, all analyzed by age and one’s religious or cultural connectedness to Judaism.
Scholars, clergy and Jewish communal professionals across the country have all written about the study and its implications for the Jewish community. I need not add to them, expect to say this: The study provides us a somewhat clear snapshot of a moment in time, and even with its clarity of current data, if you take time to read the abundance of interpretive articles, the picture changes.
The Pew study is not a crystal ball. Its data cannot shape our future; it can only give focus to our collective present. Just as Smokey the Bear reminds us that “only you can prevent forest fires,” only we can shape the Jewish future.
What is the Jewish present you want for yourself and the future you want for your children and grandchildren? How can you help the community make the vision our reality?
Synagogues and agencies welcome more voices. Every organization wants to meet the needs of our community members. We want to ensure a Judaism that touches souls, and fosters meaningful relationships. We want to provide rich, engaging, and deep educational experiences for children and adults. And we want to know that the efforts address needs and inspire interest.
This work takes many hands. No one person can grow a community. Yet if we work together, we can change the data that will be “snapped” the next time a study is done. We can create the community we want to live within and ensure it thrives for generations to come.
I look forward to working with you all.
Latest posts by Iris Koller (see all)
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