For nearly 2000 years, the synagogue has been one of the most emblematic and recognizable institutions in Jewish life. At various times, it has served not only as a sanctuary of prayer, but as a focus of community administration and social life. But in the past two centuries, the synagogue has lost much of its resonance for non-observant Jews, particularly among young people.
Creating and implementing Jewish identity programs can sometimes seem like shooting darts in the dark. Isolated in our Jewish non-profit cocoons, surrounded by others in the same profession, it can be difficult to know whether our ideas are profoundly visionary or foolishly misguided.
At a recent dinner attended by young people working in the Jewish community, talk turned, as it often does, to the topic of Jewish professional life. Conversation focused on a lay leader active in both Jewish and general nonprofit organizations. On the boards of the general nonprofits, the philanthropist had developed a reputation as a kind-hearted, patient and humane leader.
For the past dozen years, many American Jewish institutions have tailored programming towards that elusive yet abundant breed: the unaffiliated Jew. Millions have been spent on new programs that promise to reach Jews who lie outside the community’s orbit.
The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life
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