I had the good fortune of attending a think tank this week hosted by the Detroit Federation in conjunction with JFNA. Despite the inclement weather, the gathering brought together—both in person and via telephone—community professionals and lay leaders from various cities, including Montreal, St. Louis, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh and several others to discuss not just how to engage young adults but how to actually attract them in the first place. Hence the name of the conference: Rebuilding Jewish Communities by Attracting & Retaining Young Adults.
I spoke on a panel alongside Aharon Horwitz of PresenTense and David Cygielman of Moishe House. Together we had the opportunity to share our thoughts and strategies on how the next generation can become the now generation. Herewith, some of the thoughts I shared:
- The challenges we face with engaging young Jews are not insignificant: we live in era where Jews are Jews by choice; where traditional methods of engagement are no longer effective; and where the advent of cheap technology has fundamentally changed the definition of community from one based strictly on location to one rooted in shared interests and experiences.
- Our approach to engaging young Jews is rooted in the assumption that they know what they want and, given the right resources, they will makes it happen. We aim to reach these young people with a powerful message: that in their search for meaning, for relevance, for spirituality, actively engaging in Jewish life is a path worth pursuing.
- The idea of meeting young Jews where they are, of providing them with opportunities to define Jewish life in ways they find meaningful, of investing in dynamic young Jewish innovators who have the ideas for programs and organizations that we believe have the potential to inspire young Jews to shape Jewish lives on their own terms and in their own images, is something that we have found to be successful in engaging the next generation
On the heels of the conference, two great blog posts were written by participants, one from Aharon, the other from Yoni Sarason of the St. Louis Community, a young Jew in his own right who has an astute understanding of what communities like his need to do to attract young talent.
Read on and let us know what you think:
- Rebuilding Jewish Communities — Today and Tomorrow in the Midwest, Aharon Horwitz
- Think Tank: Rebuilding Communities, Yoni Sarason