Duh! We’re moving from peoplehood to purpose

I spotted the following article online.

Communal ties lacking for young Jewish professionals, study shows

November 10, 2010

NEW ORLEANS, La. (JTA) — A new survey shows that younger Jewish professionals are less committed to the Jewish collective than their elders.

The results of the survey of about 2,500 self-identified Jewish community professionals were released this week in New Orleans at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Most Jewish communal professionals grew up with two Jewish parents, had strong Jewish educational backgrounds and spent time in Israel, noted sociologist Steven M. Cohen, who did the pro bono research for the project. He called those factors “strong predictors” of later Jewish engagement.

Women make up two-thirds of all Jewish communal professionals, their median age is 48, and they are paid on average $20,000 less per year than men in comparable positions, according to the survey commissioned by the Jewish Communal Service Association of America.

Among those under 34, the survey showed 28 percent had been on Birthright programs, a higher percentage than one would expect among young Jews in general, Cohen said. That indicates a correlation between participation in Birthright and choosing a career in the Jewish community.

But despite that Israel experience and their strong Jewish backgrounds, these young professionals, like their peers not in communal work, have lower levels of commitment than their older colleagues to what he calls the “Jewish collective,” including Jewish peoplehood, Israel and a sense of Jewish “community.”

The take-away from that, Cohen said, is that the Jewish community cannot count on this generation’s continued engagement on the basis of group loyalty. Their Jewish involvement has to be earned, and Jewish professionals who understand that — their peers — will serve them better than older leaders.

“We’re going through a transition from peoplehood to purpose,” he posited. “Younger Jewish professionals are part of the purpose-driven generation.”

The survey was conducted in the fall of 2009 by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Yes I know the title of this blog is not necessarily the most sophisticated reaction, however, I do not think that the trends in this study should be a surprise to anyone.  Someone, we will call her me, wrote a sermon about the narrative challenge facing the Jewish community and I think this studies findings are demonstrative of my point which was/is, the Jewish community must re-embrace our collective narrative, the Exodus narrative, because it is that story which outlines our purpose.  Organizations and individuals who are stuck on remembering the more recent past are not serving anyone.

Fear does not mobilize the community, as effective as it might be in fundraising.  The Jewish people have a unique purpose in this world thanks to our textual tradition.  We are told to remember that we were slaves in Egypt in order to serve the Jewish and global community through acts of tzedakah raising, which I would translate here as justice.  Jews are repeatedly called to ensure that there is a sense of justice in the world because of our collective memory of enslavement and redemption.

It worries me that this is so surprising and that this study of Jewish communal professionals is ringing some type of alarm. (Let’s ring the alarm at the pay disparity and the uneven gender divide instead!)

What do you think?  Are you surprised by this article?


About rabbisteinman

I am a rabbi living in North America. I was ordained from HUC-JIR. This is my blog.
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1 Response to Duh! We’re moving from peoplehood to purpose

  1. Tamara says:

    As another professional in the Jewish field I second your duh. I agree that we need to focus on the basics of Justice, compassion and spirituality.

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