A Portrait of the American Jewish Community

A Portrait of the American Jewish Community

A Portrait of the American Jewish Community

A Portrait of the American Jewish Community

Synopsis

This comprehensive look at the American Jewish community at the turn of the 21st century explores the many issues American Jews and their organizations are confronting, and shows how the Jewish community responds so as to remain a distinct entity while also becoming a part of the larger American culture. The contributors investigate the complex issues facing the American Jewish community in 12 areas that are at the heart of the Jewish communal enterprise.

Excerpt

The closing decade of the twentieth century has been punctuated by a series of spirited--at times, acrimonious--debates over the current direction and future prospects of the American Jewish community. This, in itself, represents a shift from the strong consensus that undergirded much of the policy of the organized Jewish community just a few decades ago and enabled that community to mount self-confident campaigns to aid needy Jews abroad during the decades after the Holocaust. Now that other Jewish communities in distress have been rescued and rebuilt, American Jews have begun to look inward and have found cause to worry. the new contentiousness arises from a growing preoccupation with the health of American Jewry and the vitality of its organizational life.

Some of these controversies center on matters of communal priorities. As American Jewry addresses threats to its own "continuity," how much funding should be spent on enriching the Jewish lives of young people at the possible expense of obligations to other populations in need--the aged, families in distress, new immigrants? Given the finite resources available to the community, which populations should receive special attention? and what proportion of communal philanthropy should go to aid Jews abroad, as opposed to funds allocated for domestic Jewish needs?

Barely hidden beneath these concrete allocation decisions are agonizing questions about the future direction of Jewish life in the United States. Does the porousness of American society pose a dire threat to the integrity of the Jewish community, or does it offer new opportunities? Should we regard the spiraling incidence of intermarriage as an opportunity to enlarge the community by bringing in "the unchurched," or does it portend a disastrous depletion of the Jewish population because most "interfaith" families opt out of Jewish communal life? and more generally, does the community need to define sharper boundaries in . . .

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