To say that 2022 was a challenging year would be one of the biggest understatements I have ever made. The challenges, ups and downs, and starts and stops that took place were enough to drive many of us a bit batty.
And yet we got through it and find ourselves in 2022. A new year, full of opportunities as well as uncertainty and potential challenges that may once again find their way into our daily lives.
Doesn’t the old adage go something like, “Challenges are only opportunities in disguise”? Or is it, “Every challenge is a new opportunity”? Whatever the actual phrasing is, when challenges arise, we need to figure out the best way to confront and get past them.
I bring this up because the Jewish community has been confronted by many challenges over the course of thousands of years. Today, we find ourselves at another crossroads… confronted by many challenges converging and affecting the Jewish community all at one time.
While some of these challenges presented themselves in the past differently than they do now, in most cases we were able to get past them or adapt to the new reality they brought. And yet, some of them we have never experienced before.
At the Jewish Federation’s 27th Annual Meeting, on Sunday, January 9, I am going to have the distinct honor to talk with Dr. Steven Windmueller, one of today’s preeminent scholars, thought leader and leading expert on this very subject.
The two of us will be discussing the future of the Jewish community. In preparation for the meeting, Dr. Windmueller put together a list he has called The Ten Great Challenges facing American Jewry. Any one of these challenges would be important and take a considerable amount of thought and careful guidance to manage. And yet, we are confronted with many at the same time.
Here is his list:
1. Virtual Judaism and the Rise of National (International) Synagogues
2. Privatized Judaism and the Celebration of Choice: The Changing Character of American Judaism
3. Downsizing and Closures: End of the Legacy Age
4. Generational Change and Cultural Transitions: What this may mean for American Jewry
5. Diaspora-Israel Recalculation: After Bibi, what can we expect
6. Anti-Semitism and the Political Divide: A Game Changer
7. Jewish Political Behavior: The Rise of the Independent Voter and is this the end of the Jewish encounter with America? The impact of the Alt Right and the Rise of Progressive Democrats
8. Economic Prowess and the Nature of Work: The Changing Economy and the American Workforce
9. Jews and Urban America: The Great Move–Jews are on the move, but why and what does it all mean?
10. Peoplehood, Communalism vs. Individualism: What do all of these concepts mean today?
While some of these challenges are specific to the Jewish community, others are affecting other religions as well, as was illustrated in the latest Pew Research Center’s most recent survey on religion as a whole.
And what I think is important to understand is that in many cases, COVID didn’t bring about the challenges; they have been festering below the surface for some time.
No matter where or why these challenges have arisen, they need to be further discussed, analyzed and addressed by the organized Jewish community. And remember, some of these challenges can be a great opportunity for the Jewish community to better understand and address the needs of today’s American Jews.
It will require Jewish organizations to evolve quicker and operate more efficiently. As Charles Darwin once famously stated, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Jason Moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater
San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.