This issue of CONTACT explores diverse facets of an American Jewish community experiencing both transition and strength.
This issue of CONTACT explores landscapes and languages that together weave a fascinatingly diverse fabric of contemporary Jewish experience.
Welcome to the relaunch of CONTACT, the magazine of The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life that provides critical and constructive commentary on the Jewish community.
In the Jewish world, the college years are sometimes viewed as a potential engagement vacuum. Freed from educational outlets such as day schools or after-school programs and too young to fall in the crosshairs of young adult programming, college students are sometimes considered to be in a potential cul-de-sac on their Jewish journeys.
What is identity? “Identity” is a nebulous term, almost as difficult to pin down as terms like “consciousness’ or “faith.” Informed by history and culture, seeded by global currents as well as personal experience, it is both vast and fluid in its multiplicities.
Although it is not uncommon to perceive age-old Jewish rituals as rooted in stone or in Sinai, all ritual was at one point new. Whether inspired by historical events, communal circumstance or spiritual osmosis from surrounding cultures, Jewish rituals have emerged and evolved as a means to connect with history, with community or with notions of the Divine.
The Jewish communal world often operates in a vacuum. By its very nature, the enterprise of nurturing and sustaining a particular identity in the multicultural quilt of American society necessitates a seemingly introverted focus. Thus it is that much of the innovation in the Jewish world percolates in its own universe, separate from the outside world.
In recent years, the Jewish community’s widely successful forays into total-immersion experiences have received much attention and praise. From long-standing institutions like summer camps to more recent innovations like Birthright Israel, immersion experiences offer unparalleled opportunities for intensive Jewish encounters shorn of the distractions of everyday life.
As the Jewish community continues its sometimes effective, often comical quest to capture the attention of younger Jews, it would do well to consider the enormous possibilities for engagement among new parents and families with young children. Many new parents are at a stage in life in which they are receptive to larger connections to culture, spirituality and community
From Abraham onward, generosity has played a crucial role in the inception and evolution of Jewish values. Even today, in an age of interdenominational quarreling and competing definitions of Jewish authenticity, most Jews can agree on the primacy of tzedakkah. But there are varying interpretations of what tzedakkah entails.
The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life
712 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor New York, NY 10019
t 212-279-2288 / f 212-371-3240