What’s the Most Pressing Issue Facing American Jews? Answers from a New Generation of Jewish Leaders – brandeis.edu

Posted By on September 2, 2022

FENSTER: Frankly, I think the job of Judaism is to change the world. We've got to figure out how and who we will work with to do this. I'm thinking about how we find partners, the challenges that come with finding partners, and developing a language of shared values. We need to keep working to bring people together in sacred spaces where they can ask good questions and feel loved and safe.

ESKOW: I think the first answer is antisemitism, especially in America right now. It's a bigger issue than ever before, and that's scary.

The second issue is connection. We, as a collective group of Jewish leaders, are trying to help people connect, and I think that for many years, we've been doing that the wrong way. Too many people care about which synagogue this person goes to.

But It doesn't matter if they're affiliated or unaffiliated with a synagogue. What matters is that Jewish people feel connected to their truest version of themselves.

It's all of our jobs as people who are really in touch with the pulse of the Jewish community to say, "There isn't one way to be Jewish. We want you all to feel connected. We welcome you with more pluralistic and open-minded arms."

MELLITS: Writ large across the country, it's the breakdown of people being able to speak across their differences and relate to people who are different. And we see that is also true across the American Jewish landscape.

In the most recent Pew [Research Center] study of American Jews, one of the questions was, What do you have in common with this other movement? If you're Reform, what do you have in common with Orthodox, and vice versa? And the answers were very similar for each group. The majority say they have little or nothing in common.

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories from the Talmud. There's a discussion among the rabbis about when the day begins so that you can begin the morning prayers. They say it's when you look at another person's face and see your kinsmen, your brother in that person's face.

HERZOG: American Jews are facing issues of antisemitism. I don't want to say that every Jew is being attacked in the street, but it is a nagging problem.

And along with antisemitism, we also have strong anti-Zionism. For a lot of university students, the question is, how can I be progressive or liberal and pro-Israel because being pro-Israel means being rejected [by other progressives]?

DAVIS: I think this is a dangerous question because the minute we try to define the biggest problem, we're going to cause infighting in our community. Everybody has a different relationship with Judaism and a different variety of problems they face.

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What's the Most Pressing Issue Facing American Jews? Answers from a New Generation of Jewish Leaders - brandeis.edu

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