Problems with the Jewish Establishment
Earlier this month the United Jewish Communities General Assembly (G.A.) met in Los Angeles. The G.A. offers an opportunity for Jewish professionals and lay-leaders to gather en masse to discuss a variety of important issues facing the Jewish community. This year (as in years past), the G.A. had a problem: young Jews were not given the floor. In fact, their voices were virtually absent from discussions altogether. According to a recent article entitled "The General Assembly's Youth Deficit", the number of sessions in which young Jewish activists under the age of 35 appeared on panels could be counted on one hand.
Considering that the Jewish establishment is so concerned about Jewish continuity and about the perceived decrease in the younger generation’s Jewish affiliation, it strikes me as odd that younger Jews would not have been invited or encouraged to take on greater leadership roles at the G.A. The Jewish 20’s and 30’s scene is booming with creativity -- from blogs, to films, to art, to music, to zines, and plenty of political activism. True, we’re not all flocking to Shabbat services, becoming members of Hadassah, being poster children for the American Jewish Committee or signing up to be youth group leaders for USY or Birthright (I’m certainly not), but these affiliations do not, in my mind, encompass *the* Jewish community. Unfortunately, I don’t think the G.A. organizers have caught on to this just yet.
Who Makes the Jewish Future, a past blog entry posted by JR, speaks to a similar problem: the under-representation of women at Jewish conferences and the tokenistic pattern of inviting one Jewish woman to represent all of Jewish womanhood. This is a problem that has existed for a long, long time. Something needs to change.
The Jewish community is transforming. And if the head-honcho Jews want to think about the future, they need to understand that “doing Jewish” isn’t only about Kosher food and Hillel. There’s a whole other world out there that’s Jewish, engaged, and powerful. It’s time for the Jewish establishment to re-establish itself.