I AM CONSTANTLY amazed at how fast things change in society. I remember back in 1987, when I became a Bar Mitzvah, I received a Commodore 128 computer as a gift, which had twice as much memory as its predecessor, the Commodore 64. Of course, the 128 meant that it had 128kB of memory. This was a lot of memory back in 1987. This amount is far less than the memory size of pretty much any picture taken on our cellphones today…. and that was only 30 years ago.
This is just one small example of how fast technological changes have happened in my lifetime. I think we sometimes forgot when it comes to society, changes and advances are happening all the time and all around us.
It is not only technology or science, but also religion; more specifically, how community members consume religion. The reason why I say “consume” is because presently our society has evolved into more a consumeristic mindset. As people’s time and resources are being stretched in more directions, people are making decisions based on value, and more specifically, where they align with what they value.
In a recent Jewish Journal article titled “The New American Jew,” Dr. Steven Windmueller, one of our country’s leading voices on American Judaism, articulated how there has been an emergence of a “new kind of American Jew.” It is not only the Jewish community that is facing this cultural shift; we are seeing a decline in religious organizational affiliation throughout the entire country.
Where once people joined and supported Jewish organizations because it was just something you did, this is not always the case anymore for this new American Jew. Sadly, the organized Jewish world is having a hard time evolving and adapting to this significant shift in how people are looking to connect with their Jewish community.
However, what we are seeing is that people are finding new and exciting ways of connecting and affiliating. People are looking for ways to add religion into their lives, in addition to other things that they value.
It will be interesting to see not only how this phenomenon continues to evolve, but also how our Jewish organizations will evolve to better meet the needs of what the community is looking for in the years ahead.
I encourage you to read Dr. Windmueller’s article for yourself. Do you agree or disagree with his premise? Has your involvement and connection in Jewish life changed over the years, and if so, how? What changes have you noticed over the years? I am fascinated to hear what you think, so please share your thoughts with me.
In addition, I would love to hear suggestions you might have of ways our local Jewish organizations could better meet the needs of our community. Please share your thoughts with me either by sending me an email (email@example.com) or by calling me (626.445.0810).
Jason Moss is the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.