The Big Tent
There has been much discussion and many articles in print about the recently released Pew Research Center’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans”. The 2013 data shows that the American Jewish community is larger than had been reported in the National Jewish Population Study in 2000. The Jewish population in the US is now estimated at 6.7 million. The 2000 study told us that we were about 5.2 million and shrinking.
There will be lots of experts who will differ with the methodology, but what matters is the trend data on major areas of concern. A large proportion of the Jewish adults interviewed said they have no religion, but consider themselves Jewish.
Even our 1994 Jewish population study in Richmond showed us that 30% of the members of our community who were interviewed considered themselves “just Jewish”. Here, too, there will be a lot of discussion about what it means to be a Jew by religion or a Jew by ethnicity.
At our Board meeting December 11,
JCFR President Nathan Shor
commented on our efforts to reach
out to our community. “We have many
‘big tent’ programs to engage our
community. This is the best way we
know to combat assimilation,” he said.
Nationally, about a third of American Jews currently belong to a Synagogue. In Richmond, we are a little ahead of this average. The 2011 update of our population study showed us that about 38% of the Richmond Jewish community belong to Synagogues. Although we have had a lot of movement in between Synagogues, we have maintained about the same number of members at our local Synagogues.
The national study also tells us that about one-in four-people have been to Israel. This number is improved over studies in the past, largely due to the Taglit-Birthright Israel program funded by Federations around the country, several major donors and the State of Israel.
The big concern raised at the General Assembly in Jerusalem last month was that if many more young people are not identifying with Judaism as a religion, will they have diminished affiliations with synagogues, Federation, JCCs etc.? Will they opt out of the formal Jewish community and/or opt out of Jewish life?
At our Board meeting on December 11, JCFR President Nathan Shor commented on our efforts to reach out to our community. “We have many ‘big tent’ programs to engage our community. This is the best way we know to combat assimilation,” he said.
Nathan continued, “We will hear a report from Seth Kaplan on Outreach and Engagement. It will cover programs that engage and welcome members of our community. Seth will discuss, Enterprise Circle, Shalom Richmond, PJ Library, and the Swansboro Mentoring Program (RJCL).
“We also fund the Richmond Council for Jewish Education whose educational programs for students, families and educators are planned in collaboration among the JCFR, Congregation Beth Ahabah, Beth-El, Or Ami, Or Atid, KBI, Chabad, RTA and Weinstein JCC, and reach out to many members of our community.”
He noted, “Melanie Phillips, our Young Leadership director, staffs Network JCFR, which reaches out to Young Jewish professionals between the ages of 22-45. ”
As Nathan and Seth reported to the Board, our campaign events are also geared to reach out to our community.
Moving forward, we need to double down on our outreach and engagement efforts. We also must continue to engage our community in Missions to Israel. Since 2006, a total of 228 people have traveled to the Jewish Homeland.
It’s a full court press, and we must continue our outreach and engagement efforts, as well as raising the vital funds to help Jews locally and around the world.
As always, please give me a call at (804) 545-8622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.