2016-08-17 / Columns

Join the JCF for a look into the American Jewish future

Executive Director, Jewish Community Foundation

The future of America’s Jewish population is heading towards a crisis. Or so some pundits might say. But maybe there’s a silver lining.

According to the Pew Research Center ’s well-publicized report in 2015 titled, “U. S. Public Becoming Less Religious,” less than half of Millennials (young Americans born from 1981- 1996) consider religion to be very important in their lives. This is an eye-opening statistic indeed.

Furthermore, younger Millennials born after 1990 are even less likely to say that religion is very important in their lives (38%), compared to older Millennials (44%). This contrasts to 67% for the Silent Generation (1928- 1945), 59% for Baby Boomers (1946-1964), and 53% for Generation Xers (1965- 1980). Clearly, religious devotion shows a downward trajectory across generations.

Meanwhile, out of all individuals surveyed who identify as being Jewish, 35% say religion is very important to them, 36% say it is somewhat important, and 29% say it’s not too important or not important at all. These numbers concern Jewish community leaders locally and across the country.

So what can be done to stem the tide, particularly right here in Southern New Jersey?

The short answer?

Come find out on Sept. 15.

On that date, the Jewish Community Foundation, Inc. will be hosting Rabbi Mike Uram, executive director of University of Pennsylvania’ s Hillel, who will discuss his new book, “Next Generation Judaism: How College Students and Hillel Can Help Reinvent Jewish Organizations.”

This program is sure to generate much- needed conversations, ideas, and ultimately actions in our community. Visit jcfsnj.org/uram to order tickets or for more information.

But in the meantime, here are some tips about getting Millennials more involved in our wonderful SNJ Jewish community:

• Help Millennials Out: According to JFunders.org, Millennials have a lot of drive, want to integrate who they are with what they do, and have their careers on a front burner and religion on a back burner. Can you help them meet their career and personal goals while also incorporating Jewish values and traditions?

• Communicate Effectively: According to the re: charity blog, Millennials want regular communications, with 65% of recent survey participants preferring at least monthly or quarterly updates, and the topics they like to hear about include programs and services (79%), volunteer opportunities (70%), fundraising events (56%), and opportunities for young professionals (56%). Over 90% of respondents favor receiving email for these updates. Bonus tip: Have your own voice and keep things light and personalized, not stodgy and institutionalized.

• Host Experience- Based Events: Generally speaking, young adults aged 18- 35 don’t like to be left out, according to “The NonProfit Times” (May 1, 2016), and they like unique experiences and social impact, rather than just dropping a donation check in the mail. With the prevalence of social media, Millennials like to be seen in pictures, and be part of the scene. Use this to your advantage to attract and engage Millennials to your programming.

• Fundraise for Specific Projects: Millennials, and increasingly the broader public, like to see the impact of their donations. Rather than donating to a general fund, Millennials often prefer to give to support a specific project, a la Kickstarter campaigns. Millennials like to give, but often in smaller increments, and they also like matching gifts (71%).

There are vast resources about Millennials on the Internet, but we welcome you to visit jcfblog.org/2016/08/millennials.html for a compendium of links and insights as a starting point.

Why is the JCF involved in this, you may ask?

We assist local organizations in growing the future of our community. Together, we can involve Millennials in our Jewish community and develop their enthusiasm, generosity, and knowledge to help avoid any impending crisis, and, instead, bring the silver lining to fruition.

Please join us on Sept. 15 to help kick off this important conversation for our entire Jewish community.


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