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Help For Boomers
Tue, 04/08/2014 - 20:00

Gary Rosenblatt’s “Move Over Millennials” (March 21) surfaces apparent imbalances in focus as well as new funding in the Jewish “field.” As someone fortunate to be involved in Birthright’s start-up years, it’s truly amazing and encouraging that 350,000 young adult Jews were provided with a unique opportunity to connect/re-connect to their cultural “belonging.”

However, it’s hard to disagree with Rosenblatt’s point that boomers are being neglected or the novel B3 initiative of David Elcott /Stuart Himmelfarb to re-engage baby boomers in Jewish life. Thousands upon thousands who “retire” each year can be positioned as a new infusion of Jewish resources serving younger Jews and institutions. Professor Elcott laments on the relative lack of communal interest in these boomers “takes us down a negative path.”

One subset of Jewish boomers approaching “retirement” age are the many pros who have devoted decades to increasingly more impactful positions in all Jewish nonprofits — federations, human services, day schools, synagogues, camps, JCCs, etc. These dedicated, long-tenured pros, however, won’t “retire” like their parents. Most have more than two decades of life ahead. And, they seek to contribute in different, yet meaningful ways … after having “selflessly” focused for decades on their constituency’s needs.

Sadly, the support these good folks merit for smooth transitions from agency life to new lives, often with encore careers, appears quite low on funding agendas. Can funding priorities be better balanced for all generations? First step? Re-calibrate priorities and provide small funding for their transitioning and re-connecting through supporting initiatives such as workshops now available to boomers.

Boston University Graduate School of Management

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David Elcott and Stuart Himmelfarb make an important point. Jewish communal institutions cannot afford to waste the valuable skills, talents, and experience gained by this "Jewish brain trust" during their personal and professional lifetimes. By the same token, Jewish communal institutions must rid themselves of the misapprehension that Adults 55+ simply "don't have it anymore" just because they've been working in the field for 30+ years. Make no mistake about it: MANY of today's Adults 55+ (including those who are 65+ and beyond) still have the energy, creativity, vitality, wisdom, and DESIRE to make a difference in the world--both locally and globally. And with the average age of the Jewish community skewing older than the broader community and other ethnic communities, we must take the lead in tapping this tremendous human resource by engaging Jewish Adults 55+ in ways that are meaningful to them--and to our Jewish community.