The 2013 Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews turned the Jewish world on its head. Until the study was released, we had strong anecdotal information about the rapidly declining connectivity of American Jews to God, Judaism, its institutions, its practices, and the State of Israel. By October 2013, we now had hard data. Jewish leaders at the time fell into one of a few different camps. Some woke up and said, “Oh no, we better do something.” Others buried their heads even further into the sand. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks talked about a third camp-the assimilationists dancing in the streets after learning about the success of their efforts.
I’m proud to say that the leadership of our Jewish Federation already recognized the situation and started to work on solutions prior to the publication of the Pew Report. Engagement of the less affiliated was the primary focus of our 2012 strategic-planning process and led directly to the creation of our engagement department.
Much of the organized Jewish world is now trying to catch up. The Reform movement has its Audacious Hospitality program. The Conservative movement is implementing the Relational Judaism model. Hillel International created a program where they benchmark “touches.” Some organizations, including The Jewish Multiracial Network and Keshet are truly leading the way with their engagement of our marginalized populations.
On Sunday, August 18, we are convening our Jewish community’s lay and professional leadership for a full afternoon engagement summit
for the benefit of our entire community. Every synagogue and Jewish institution are invited as together we learn from the best in the field how we can do a better job of welcoming and engaging. This work is critical, and I will argue that the future of our Jewish community depends on it.