Visionary solutions for a community ripe for transformational change—from fourteen leading innovators of Jewish life.
“Jewish Megatrends offers a vision for a community that can simultaneously strengthen the institutions that serve those who seek greater Jewish identification and attract younger Jews, many of whom are currently outside the orbit of Jewish communal life. Schwarz and his collaborators provide an exciting path, building on proven examples, that we ignore at our peril.”
—from the Foreword
The American Jewish community is riddled with doubts about the viability of the institutions that well served the Jewish community of the twentieth century. Synagogues, Federations and Jewish membership organizations have yet to figure out how to meet the changing interests and needs of the next generation.
In this challenging yet hopeful call for transformational change, visionary leader Rabbi Sidney Schwarz looks at the social norms that are shaping the habits and lifestyles of younger American Jews and why the next generation is so resistant to participate in the institutions of Jewish communal life as they currently exist. He sets out four guiding principles that can drive a renaissance in Jewish life and gives evidence of how, on the margins of the Jewish community, those principles are already generating enthusiasm and engagement from the very millennials that the organized Jewish community has yet to engage.
Contributors—leading innovators from different sectors of the Jewish community—each use Rabbi Schwarz’s framework as a springboard to set forth their particular vision for the future of their sector of Jewish life and beyond.
Elise Bernhardt • Rabbi Sharon Brous • Sandy Cardin • Dr. Barry Chazan • Dr. David Ellenson • Wayne Firestone • Rabbi Jill Jacobs • Anne Lanski • Rabbi Joy Levitt • Rabbi Asher Lopatin • Rabbi Or N. Rose • Nigel Savage • Barry Shrage • Dr. Jonathan Woocher
“A must read for those who seek to understand and harness the mega-changes reshaping the Jewish world.”
—Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president, Union for Reform Judaism
“Pushes us all out of our comfort zones to recognize what works and to train today’s rabbis, educators and communal leaders to transform our respective institutions and create meaningful intellectual, spiritual and action opportunities for the young Jews who are waiting for these changes.”
—Ruth Messinger, president, American Jewish World Service
“Provides us with [a] much needed lesson in understanding the American Jewish community and [how to reach] our spirits. [Sid Schwarz’s] work is charting a course for the synagogues and Jewish centers of the twenty-first century.”
—Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles; author, Why Faith Matters
“A compelling overview of the stand-out successes and major challenges in confronting a generation many believe is moving away from its parents’ and grandparents’ ways of identifying Jewishly... Hopeful.”
—New York Jewish Week
“Compelling.... With much to celebrate and much to cause concern, the reader will better appreciate the complexities of Jewish life when all Jews are Jews by choice.”
—Charles R. Bronfman, chairman, Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies
“Schwarz combines remarkable institutional building experience, [an] extensive network of relationships with the best and the brightest in Jewish life, and keen knowledge of the American religious landscape to produce a must read for those concerned with the genuine challenges of the next era in American Jewish life.... The book is insightful and creative ... sober and hopeful, realistic and idealistic, temperate and optimistic, pragmatic and visionary. Brims with wisdom and confidence....”
—Rabbi Irwin Kula, president, Clal—The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
“Provide[s] an invaluable framework for understanding the challenging dynamics of contemporary American Judaism [and] a blueprint for the future that will inspire and motivate leaders of our community. Anyone who wants to see American Judaism thrive in the twenty-first century should read this book!”
—Rabbi Marla Feldman, executive director, Women of Reform Judaism
“Face[s] difficult issues head-on. The faith we share in a creative Jewish future is due in large part to people like Schwarz and those visionaries he has gathered around him in these essays. Rabbis and other Jewish leaders should pay careful attention.”
—Arthur Green, rector, Hebrew College Rabbinical School; author, Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow and Radical Judaism
“Throws down the gauntlet to Jewish community leaders seeking to engage the next generation in this perceptive book.... The result: a thoughtful road map for the future of the Jewish people in North America based on wisdom, justice, community and purpose.”
—Dr. Ron Wolfson, author, Relational Judaism: Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community; Fingerhut Professor of Education, American Jewish University; co-founder, Synagogue 3000/Next Dor
“Spot-on in its analysis of the biggest changes in American Judaism.... Read this book to become informed, but more importantly, read it to become inspired to build the next vibrant chapter of Jewish life.”
—Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, executive director, Mechon Hadar; author, Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities
“A thought provoking, challenging and important book at this critical time of transition in Jewish life.”
—Rabbi Laura Geller, senior rabbi, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills
“Delivers an excellent and well thought out set of assumptions ... combined with some of the best thinkers and doers in the American Jewish community. I recommend this book to anyone searching to learn more about the major trends and direction of our Jewish community.”
—David Cygielman, founder and CEO, Moishe Houses
“Challenges us to do much-needed big picture thinking about the nature of American Judaism today.... By gathering and challenging major American Jewish thinkers in one volume, Sid Schwarz has given us the gift of a critical conversation wrapped into one important book.”
—Dr. Erica Brown, scholar-in-residence, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington; author, Inspired Jewish Leadership: Practical Approaches to Building Strong Communities and Spiritual Boredom: Rediscovering the Wonder of Judaism
“A thoughtful work that challenges the traditional biases of decision makers in the Jewish community and empowers them to take risks and step into what could be a glorious future.”
—Rabbi Charles Simon, executive director, Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs; author, Building a Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish Community
“An important contribution.... Should be in all major Jewish institutions.... Clearly written and concise.”
—Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
“[A] compelling twenty-first-century case for a Judaism of four key value propositions—wisdom, social justice, community and sacred purpose—gains a fifth—honest conversation—through the voices of some of American Jewry’s most creative leaders.”
—Shawn Landres, co-founder, Jewish Jumpstart
“Wisely and skillfully offers a multi-dimensional platform for reinvigorating the Jewish experiences and charts a course for a future of Jewish relevance.”
—Rabbi Will Berkovitz, senior vice president, Repair the World
“Brings ... many ... exciting developments [in modern Jewish life] into a focus that provides a fuller understanding of where we are and where we can go. It is a must read anyone thinking about the future of American Jewish life.”
—Esther Safran Foer, director, Sixth & I
“Insightful and honest analysis [as well as] specific ideas for how we must evolve as a community.... Offer[s] innovative strategies for building a Jewish community so compelling that future generations will be inspired to connect.”
—Nancy Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women
“Offers us a roadmap to the unparalleled changes affecting the Jewish world today.... Uniquely lays out a new reality filled with challenges and opportunities that could not be more timely. After reading this book, one thing is for certain: the Jewish world of tomorrow cannot and will not look like the Jewish world of today.”
—David Bryfman, The Jewish Education Project; co-designer, The Jewish Futures Conferences
“A must-read for anyone who cares about the future of the Jewish community.... Present[s] a realistic, yet hopeful view of how the Jewish world is changing and how those with leadership responsibilities in the community can respond.”
—Rabbi Laura Baum, OurJewishCommunity.org and Congregation Beth Adam, Loveland, Ohio
“Engaging and spirited.... Calls for authenticity—a renewed focus on community, prayer, learning, social justice, Israel travel and cultural participation as ends in themselves, rather than as mere instruments to some other end. To get the best results, just do the right thing.”
—Professor Steven M. Cohen, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion and Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner
“If you want to understand the here-and-now of the Jewish community in the twenty-first century, then read this book today.... Helps us better understand the new narratives and urgent challenges of Jewish identity, engagement, and continuity.”
—Lori Weinstein, CEO and executive director, Jewish Women International
“Schwarz’s essay-as-premise and its responses reflect a Jewish world that is recalibrating and transitioning rather than floundering, and testify to the wealth of options for today’s Jews to express Jewish identity and connect to core values, texts and tradition.”
—Esther D. Kustanowitz, program coordinator, NextGen Engagement Initiative, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
“Powerful ... provid[es] a compelling and nuanced vision of what a meaningful Jewish future can look like and the change-agents who are working to realize this vision.”
—Rabbi Ari Weiss, executive director, Uri L’Tzedek
“A tour de force... I encourage all committed Jewish professionals and lay leaders to absorb and process the vision in this book.”
—Jakir Manela, executive director, Pearlstone Center, Baltimore, Maryland
“An impressive body of thought leaders offer their perspective on the key challenges of the twenty-first century, as well as their insights on how the community can respond with intelligence and creativity.”
—Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, rabbi-in-residence, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice
“Gather[s] together an all-star cast of movers and shakers who have broken boundaries in their respective ways. Each contributes powerfully to a larger thesis that is important reading for all who take leadership seriously.”
—Rabbi Avraham (Avi) Weiss, founder, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat; author, Spiritual Activism: A Jewish Guide to Leadership and Repairing the World
Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat has served in senior leadership posts in four U.S. administrations while also playing a leadership role in the Jewish community, most recently as the co-chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem. He is the author of Imperfect Justice and The Future of the Jews.
Elise Bernhardt, has been president and CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Culture (formerly the National Foundation for Jewish Culture) since 2006. Before that, Bernhardt was the artistic advisor of New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival and executive director of The Kitchen, the performance space in Manhattan, from 1998 to 2004. She founded the organization Dancing in the Streets, which produces performances in public spaces, and directed it from 1983 to 1998. She received the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture, the BAX 10 Award, and the Doris C. Freedman Award for enriching the public environment.
Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founding rabbi of IKAR (www.ikar-la.org), a spiritual community dedicated to reanimating Jewish life through soulful religious practice that is rooted in a deep commitment to social justice. She has been noted as one of the leading rabbis in the country in Newsweek/Daily Beast and has been listed among the Forward’s fifty most influential American Jews numerous times. She serves on the faculty of the Wexner Heritage Program, the Shalom Hartman Institute, and Reboot and sits on the board of Rabbis for Human Rights.
Sanford R. (“Sandy”) Cardin is president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network (CLSPN), a global effort to ignite the passion and unleash the power in young people to create change for themselves, in the Jewish community, and across the broader world. Cardin is a frequent presenter and panelist in global forums on topics related to catalytic grant making, innovative program building, Jewish identity, young adult engagement, Israel, and more.
Dr. Barry Chazan is professor emeritus of the Hebrew University, founding educational director of Birthright Israel, and professor of education and director of the Masters of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies Program at Spertus College in Chicago. He is married to Anne Lanski (see below).
Dr. David Ellenson is president of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. Dr. Ellenson was ordained as a rabbi at HUC JIR and received his PhD from Columbia University. His book After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity won the National Jewish Book Award. His most recent book, Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa, was coauthored with Daniel Gordis.
Wayne Firestone is the president and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. He is a lawyer, writer, and Jewish community professional who has lived and studied in Israel for almost a decade. He is the founding executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition and serves on the advisory boards of Repair the World, Mazon, and the National Urban Debate League.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the executive director of Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, an organization of eighteen hundred rabbis who mobilize their communities to protect human rights in North America and Israel. She is the author of Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community and There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition. Rabbi Jacobs has been named three times to the Forward’s list of fifty influential American Jews, to the Jewish Week’s first list of “36 under 36,” and to Newsweek’s list of “The 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America” every year since 2009.
Anne Lanski is the executive director of the iCenter, a national organization established by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation to build and support the field of precollegiate Israel education. Lanski was founder of Shorashim, a nationally acclaimed Israel experience program, and she is widely regarded as the pioneering figure in the formulation and implementation of the mifgash as a seminal context for experiencing Israel. She is married to Dr. Barry Chazan (see above).
Rabbi Joy Levitt is the executive director at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. Prior to coming to the JCC, she served as a congregational rabbi on Long Island and in New Jersey for twenty years. She is the coeditor of A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah. Most recently, Rabbi Levitt founded the Jewish Journey Project, a new initiative designed to revolutionize Jewish education for children.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin is the spiritual leader of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Chicago. On a Rhodes Scholarship, he completed an MPhil in medieval Arabic thought from Oxford University and did doctoral work at Oxford on Islamic fundamentalist attitudes toward Jews. He was ordained by Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, Yeshivas Brisk, and Yeshiva University. He is the incoming president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, succeeding Rabbi Avi Weiss.
Rabbi Or N. Rose is director of the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College and codirector of the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education (CIRCLE), a joint venture of Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological Seminary. He is the coeditor of Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections; God in All Moments: Mystical and Practical Spiritual Wisdom from Hasidic Masters; and My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation.
Nigel Savage, originally from Manchester, England, founded Hazon in 2000. Since then Hazon has grown to be a nationally significant organization, both renewing Jewish life in profound ways and working to create a healthier and more sustainable world for all. Before founding Hazon, Savage was a professional fund manager in London. He has a master’s degree in history from Georgetown University and has learned at Pardes, Yakar, and Hebrew University. Savage is infamous in the United Kingdom for his cameo appearance in the cult Anglo-Jewish comic movie Leon the Pig Farmer. He is also believed to be the first English Jew to have cycled across South Dakota on a recumbent bike.
Barry Shrage has served as president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston since 1987 and has worked in the Jewish community since graduating from the Boston University School of Social Work in 1970. His passion for Jewish education and strengthening Jewish identity has been at the heart of his work throughout his professional career.
Dr. Jonathan Woocher is chief ideas officer of JESNA and heads its Lippman Kanfer Institute: An Action-Oriented Think Tank for Innovation in Jewish Learning and Engagement. He served for twenty years as JESNA’s president and chief executive officer before assuming his current position in 2007. Dr. Woocher is the author of Sacred Survival: The Civil Religion of American Jews and many articles on Jewish education, community, and religious life.