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The Next Big Jewish Idea: Being Jewish is a Great Way To Be Human

I got an email today notifying me that the LA Federation is looking for "The Next Big Jewish Idea".

I've been thinking about "the big idea" for the last few weeks. At LimmudUK, I went to hear Jonathan Sarna speak about future trends in American Jewish life. (Who, BTW, is coming to speak to Atlanta at Taste of Limmud, Sunday, March 27th, 2011.)  Jonathan talked about many different forces that are acting on American Jewish life, mostly resulting in assimilation and decreasing numbers of Jews. He feels that the Jewish people needs a new great mission to bring us together and boost our Jewish connection.

What is going to be that mission? In the q&a, I commented that I have a dream that one day people will see being Jewish as so desirable, so meaningful, so compelling that there will not be Jews abandoning their Jewishness and that more non-Jews will find a Jewish life compelling and attractive. In my own limited way, I pursue the realization of this dream every day with ModernTribe: helping to make Jewish life desirable, meaningful, compelling.

This is the Next Big Jewish Idea: Judaism Rocks. Positive Judaism. Or, as my new friend Shawn Landres of Jumpstart says, "being Jewish is a great way to be human." I hope, Shawn, you don't mind me using that wonderful expression as the title of the Next Big Jewish Idea.

Here is my application, written after much thought, but little editing, and submitted as an industrial & organizational psychologist and not as the owner of ModernTribe.

Being Jewish is a great way to be human.

Describe your idea (500 words or less) *
Jews (and non Jews choosing to be Jewish) can have a meaningful, enriched life through Judaism and Jewish living. Even if you are not frum. Even if you do not believe in G-d. Or if you do!

In our fabric is tikkun olam: caring for Jews, people, and the world. In our fabric is "engagement": pursuit of justice, ethics, thoughtfulness, debate and community. In our fabric is ritual and tradition: each week, each season, each occasion we have opportunities for contemplation and creating meaning built in! We just need to remember. We need to be reminded. We need to teach each other. Being Jewish is a great way to be human.

This is a meta-idea: all projects: mine, yours, from the Federations, to the non profits, to the philanthropists, to the for profit Jewish businesses, we need to be working from this mindset and the values and behaviors that follow. 

Describe your project goals and expected impact upon Los Angeles Jewish Community (500 words or less) *
The "project" is a campaign, an educational outreach, and a communicated responsibility for all of our organizations to adopt. Specific actions would depend on the identified needs in the LA Jewish community. In general the project would instill, educate, motivate, the following values:

  • Judaism is for you, and everyone.
  • Judaism is here: it is up to YOU to find the meaningfulness for yourself and your family. We (Federation, non profits, for profits, all organizations) are here to help.
  • Jews are a people, but beyond genes, ethnicity, place, or religious beliefs.
  • We create and strengthen our community through a culture of respect, openness, and "niceness" to each other. (This is, truly, often missing in Jewish organizations. In organizational psychology we call this a culture of customer service. We are missing this in much of established Jewish life.) We commit to adopting a culture of customer service.
  • We are all responsible. You get nothing without giving back. You learn = you teach. You receive = you give. No more giving to people and hoping we get back. Gifts are given with expectations. Don't be afraid of having expectations!
  • We are in it for the LONG HAUL -- short term thinking needs to be resisted. We must be patient and do what we expect to give us the biggest long term success of the following:
  • Continuation and growth in Jewish numbers and growth in Jews identifying and finding meaning in Judaism.
  • Caring and tikkun olam in a Jewish connected way.
  • Strengthening our emotional connections to Judaism, Jewish life, and our communities. THIS IS HOW WE ENSURE CONTINUITY: through feelings, emotional connection.  

What makes your project new or innovative? (500 words or less) *
It's a meta-idea. This is training, education, marketing, persuasion for all of us. This idea is for all of Jewish LA. Use LA as the example and carry it forth to the world.

Briefly describe how you will use the funds (500 words or less) *

  1. I would convene a small group of like-minded community leaders.
  2. We would meet and create a community mission that clarifies, expands, amends, as necessary, the ideas I outline above.
  3. The group invites, solicits, persuades leaders of the LA Jewish community to join this mission. This may take the form of a conference, with education by experts.
  4. The mission adopters receive the education they need to carry these values back to their organizations.
  5. The mission adopters identify and prioritize the help they need to bring these values back to their organizations and determine, together, what community resources need to be in place for everyone to draw from, as needed.

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What do you think? Could you adopt this mission? If yes, what would you need to instill these values in your organization? What immediate change could you make, right now?
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The application asked for a video submission, which I thought was interesting. I submitted my Interview with a Dreidel Peddler video, below, for your enjoyment.

From ModernTribe Jewish Gifts

2 Comments

Jennie, I’m truly honored that what I said resonated with you, and I think you’ve articulated an effective outcome of what I’ve been saying for a number of years: the point of being Jewish is to be human, and not vice versa. I think if Rabbi Hillel had been asked to summarize the Torah while jumping off both feet, he’d simply have said, “Be human” (which, in fact, he did say at another time).

I’d love to stay involved beyond the soundbite …as I recall, you had thoughts of a T-shirt? ;-)

Posted by Shawn on January 16, 2011

Here is a little bit about what I mean about culture of customer service — or customer service climate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_climate

Posted by Jennie on January 16, 2011

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