Today is November 17, 2019 -

JFK’s Terminal 4

My office window overlooks the intersection of Columbia Circle E. Dr. and S. Frontage Rd., which sits just a few feet south of Washington Ave. Ext. Anecdotally, I can tell you that this is a horrible intersection. I hear the tires screeching and the metal clashing as cars run into each other fairly regularly.

But DOT does not work with anecdotal information. It studies statistical data. As accidents go, the few reported here have not caused enough fatalities to warrant a change, and therefore change is not likely forthcoming.

I have an MBA. I taught statistics as a graduate student and am as comfortable as anyone in using them. I have at my disposal our community’s demographic study of 2010 as well as the 2013 Pew Research Center “Portrait of Jewish Americans.” I have read articles and attended seminars on the disturbing trends in Jewish identity, attitudes about Israel, assimilation, child rearing, etc.

But the Jewish Federation is not the DOT. We do not ignore the anecdotal for the sanctity of the statistical. Rather, we embrace the anecdotal. We read the statistics, but we listen to every Jewish story as we shape our strategies.

The statistics on attitudes toward Israel, especially among our teens, is depressing. But, if we look beyond the statistics, there are some very positive things happening in the world that can give us optimism. One of them can be seen with a walk through JFK’s Terminal 4!

Last Wednesday, I dropped my son Levi at the El Al terminal (Terminal 4) for his summer trip to Israel. There were literally hundreds of teenagers that morning excited for their summer experiences. The two main groups that I could identify were NCSY and Birthright. At other times, you can see the same scene, but with kids from USY or NFTY or B’nai Brith or Young Judaea, or a plethora of other groups. In another couple of months, you can see all of the kids leaving for their gap year in Israel.

As a Zionist, as someone who regularly sends my own kids to Israel, and someone who works hard to get all kids to Israel, I was really moved. Damn the statistics! Back in the office on Thursday morning, I buried the Pew Report. I closed the case. Mission Accomplished!

Ah – if only it were that simple. There is still a lot of work to do. But, anecdotally, that was a good day.

Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York

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