With American Jews no longer focused on concerns of continuity and survival, Jewish institutions of the 21st century must evolve to meet the needs of covenantal Jews (those who value spiritual legacy and universal priorities over group solidarity and ethnic loyalty).
Additionally, many Jews of the baby-boom generation regard their affiliation with the Jewish community as episodic. They view the synagogue through the familiar lens of the larger society’s consumer driven/fee-for-service model, a resource accessed periodically but with little ongoing utility or value.
We in Seattle exhibit more of the trends emerging nationally than other regions. In fact, the dramatic changes began in the “spiritual but not religious/None Zone” of the Pacific Northwest. As such we have an opportunity to explore and address these challenges, again being at the forefront of an important religious evolution. There are as many solutions as there are people/groups offering options. Many concur that we must:
- Bridge the tribal/covenantal divide, especially among young adults and adolescents, demonstrating to them through ethical ethnicity how timeless and transcendent Jewish values address the most compelling concerns of our times.
- Foster a sense of Jewish authenticity through:
- Inspiring worship,
- Courageous pursuit of social justice and tikkun olam
- Challenging, accessible education
- Shift from a focus on member units to an “ownership” ideal inspired by DIY (do-it-yourself) Jewish journeys.
- Programs as a means to forge community.
- View development as a means to realize an articulated vision rather than as an end in itself
- Facilitate individual journeys, and
- Facilitate strong and enduring relationships among congregants with physical spaces that facilitate those relationships.
- Collaborate between communal organizations to effectively serve the diverse needs of the community, with innovative and entrepreneurial approaches.
- Embrace creativity, risk-taking and experimentation with a willingness to fail toward cultivating new approaches.
- Realize that the status quo is untenable.
Federation’s 2015 demographic study study highlighted the Seattle Jewish community’s unusual educational profile. Seattle’s Jews as a group have much greater educational attainment than the national average, even among Jews. This strong value on education and intellectual pursuits informs our planning.
The life of the mind is clearly both a point of departure and a point of entry into Jewish life for Seattle’s community. This fact highlights the need to broaden, deepen, enrich and expand upon our adult education offerings, which is a cornerstone of our educational planning.