A Leader's Update: Welcome Home

The following blog first appeared Friday, June 1, as an email update from Keith Krivitzky, CEO, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I was going to write a story about one of these curve balls which came our way yesterday, and then this article threw me a bit of a curve ball: https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-britain-poll-indicates-23-unwilling-to-have-a-jew-in-the-family/  

I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise, but then I had two reactions…which don’t sit well with each other, or even on their own.

The first: The United States must score much better, since Jews in this country are welcomed with open arms by many families regardless of background one reason why we have high intermarriage rates and so many interfaith families.

The second reaction: I actually do wonder what a similar survey would reveal in this country. Increasingly, I happen to be one of those who believe that things are not as warm, accepting and hunky-dory as they seem.

Immediately after seeing this article…no joke…I read this excellent piece by Yehuda Kurtzer: http://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/at-home-in-that-other-promised-land/  

He talks about how most Jews in America feel at home here, and have no interest in thinking about a move to our “homeland.” He cites the example of the Babylonian exile to highlight how rich some of these Diaspora homes can be, and makes a case (compelling, I think) as to how those living in the original homeland and promoting Zionism need to rethink how they engage with those who make their homes elsewhere.

My mind, though, went in a different direction. What’s the future of the Jewish people in this incredible “new” home in America? I am not talking on an individual level, but on a communal or people-hood level. We see what happens when we are embraced fully by others and can join their families; Jews become less Jew-ish. On the other hand, does it take being rejected by others to sustain us as a people and connected to each other as an extended family? Catch 22.

Or is there a third way? Can we create an internal pull or driver for people to connect and remain proudly apart? That’s the challenge and pressing need if we really wish to see and accept America as a Jewish home. Education is a critical piece an area where we have failed thus far as a community but it goes beyond that. What’s the compelling reason to be Jewish in a society where everything goes and there is a world of opportunity? How does the Jewish community add value to people’s lives? What’s our “unique selling proposition” (a reference to the different “products” Federation needs to “sell” in my piece last week).

This is what we need to come up with, clarify and share. Much as Yossi Klein Halevi did in his book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, in terms of tying Israel into the Jewish story. But, for us to truly be at home here, we need to go beyond that and also define what we believe in indigenously here. And we have work to do.

With that, reads for Shabbat and the weekend:

Best for a Shabbat Shalom!




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