As concerned as I am about the outcome of this week’s scheduled Mideast peace conference (now downgraded to “meeting” and soon, perhaps, to be scaled down to “photo-op”) in Annapolis, Md., I must admit that I get a kick out of seeing international headlines every day referring to my small hometown on the Severn River.
Chanukah is that most pliable of Jewish festivals.
Pick a theme, superficial or substantive, and it’s all there in the ancient story of the eight-day observance that begins this year on Tuesday night. It’s a holiday that has as many messages as it does English spellings (Hannukah, Chanukah, etc.)
Remember UJA, more formally known as the United Jewish Appeal?
It had, and probably still does have, the most widely known brand name in Jewish communal life.
But when the national organization, founded in 1938, merged with the Council of Jewish Federations a decade ago, they morphed into a new entity and name: UJC, United Jewish Communities, for the umbrella group of North American Federations.
At the time, I was among the many who thought it was unwise to jettison the “UJA” acronym, since it was not only well known but was thought of positively.
Submitted by Gary Rosenblatt on Tue, 10/06/2009 - 00:00
Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
The chances of a U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran in the coming months may have dramatically increased, if a report in The Sunday Times of London last weekend is true.
The Times said that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s secret trip to Moscow of Sept. 7 was to meet with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin and hand over a list of names of Russian scientists helping Iran build nuclear arms.
Anyone who has been reading about the state of American Jewish life lately — the numerous studies showing that younger people feel increasingly distant from Israel, synagogues, federations, organizations and a sense of peoplehood — should recognize the name Steven M. Cohen.
As a leading sociologist of American Jewry, he has authored or co-authored at least seven important reports or articles in the last year and a half describing the crisis the community faces in transmitting its Jewish values from this generation to the next.
I remember as a teenager in Baltimore stopping into a Reform temple on Shabbat morning out of curiosity, having never attended a Reform service, and being asked to remove my kipa before entering the sanctuary.
Times have changed.
Let’s try a little end-of-the-year game.
I’ll mention a name or phrase, and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind.
Walt-Mearsheimer. Jimmy Carter. Ahmadinejad at Columbia.
How about: Hamas. Sderot. 1939.
Alvin Rosenfeld. Tony Judt. Norman Finkelstein.
I think you get the picture.
Is it fair to trace our communal challenges of intermarriage, assimilation and lack of affiliation back to boys losing interest in Jewish life after their bar mitzvah celebrations?
You could make the case that since non-Orthodox young men drop out of Jewish religious and educational activities at a far higher rate than girls, and intermarry at a higher rate than Jewish women, we need to find a way to involve and inspire boys Jewishly at an early age.
And then presto, the worrisome decline in our numbers and affiliation would be reversed.