2017-10-11 / Columns

We invite everyone to join the conversation about our future

FEDERATION 411
JENNIFER DUBROW WEISS
Jewish Federation CEO

“Communal ownership for sustainability of our Jewish community.” This phrase comes from a recent meeting we here at the Jewish Federation had with our parent association, JFNA. It was said in passing as we discussed fundraising strategies, but it has stuck with me these past few weeks. And, it’s something I feel is vital to the future of our South Jersey Jewish community.

What does “communal ownership for sustainability of our Jewish community” mean?

It means taking a good, hard look at what it takes for us to sustain Jewish communal living here in South Jersey. We all want tomorrow’s Jewish community to be as vibrant as it today—and to continue to grow as the needs of the community change. But how do we do that in an ever-changing climate of charitable giving, culture, religion, and politics? We as a community need to explore our missions, our values, and our priorities together. What does “Jewish life” mean these days— and what does it mean for the future?

Each and every one of us who lives here and defines himself or herself as Jewish has a role and owns a piece of what Jewish communal sustainability looks like here in South Jersey. The Jewish Federation is here to facilitate these discussions, and to help shape the future of Jewish South Jersey. We are all responsible for the future of our community. We are all responsible for defining our Jewish institutions around the needs of community and lifestyles of our community. We don’t see change as a negative, but rather as an opportunity to strengthen our core for the future.

The questions we need to ask ourselves are: How does “communal ownership for Jewish sustainability” relate to our day schools, our synagogues, our agencies, and even our Jewish Federation? Do we have the right programs and services throughout the community? Are our Jewish institutions—agencies, day schools, and synagogues— flexible enough to change with the times? How do we define “Jewish community” and who is defining it? Who is defining what our priorities are and exploring the demographics of this ever-changing community?

The Jewish Federation is taking the lead in starting these conversations with our own agencies, as well as the community at large. Long before we had these words to put to it, we have been convening task forces and councils representing the existing Jewish institutions in our community to discuss what the future may hold for Jewish South Jersey. We have recently launched a “Community Tracker” to gain insight on the demographics of Jewish life here in South Jersey. Combining this data with our 2013 POP Study allows us to gain valuable insight into the trends of traditional Jewish affiliation and life these past four years—and going forward.

We invite all of you to participate in the conversation about the future of Jewish South Jersey. We each have a role and responsibility for this. We each own a piece of the future. 

jweiss@jfedsnj.org

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