The Next Big Idea

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In this week’s Jewish Week, editor Gary Rosenblatt begins his search for, what he calls, “The Next Big Jewish Idea.” For Rosenblatt, the last big Jewish idea was birthright israel, which just brought its 100,000th participant to Israel (free of charge, of course).

Rosenblatt discusses a symposium that took place last Sunday in honor of CAJE’s Dr. Eliot Spack. The panelists were asked to come up with The Next Big Idea in Jewish Life.

Now, I wasn’t at the panel, so I only have Rosenblatt’s summaries to go on, but if they’re at all representative of the real conversation, we might be in trouble.

Rabbi Elliot Dorf, rector of the University of Judaism, focused on the fact that the American Jewish community is “in a major demographic crisis” because “we are not replacing ourselves.”

With many Jews marrying after college and graduate school and starting families relatively late, he said they are having one or two children, and some are facing infertility problems in their 30s and 40s.

His suggestion: encourage these young people to marry and have children while in graduate school, and for the community to create and subsidize affordable day care in Jewish institutions.

I have enormous respect for Rabbi Dorff, but is this really the best he could come up with? Encourage people to procreate at an earlier age? And how exactly do you expect to do that? Plus, here’s something to think about: Maybe our dearth of ideas is a result of our obsession with continuity. Maybe if we stop thinking about procreative sex for just a minute and exercise our brains and prophetic vision, we might actually have an idea or two.

Dr. Bethamie Horowitz, research director of the Mandel Foundation, asserted that “Jews don’t have to be cloistered” to live Jewish lives anymore, and that rather than ask “why be Jewish?” the question should be “why not be Jewish?”

I truly hope that this summary misses Horowitz’s point, because as it stands, it’s incomprehensible. I mean, really, rather than ask “why be a nudist?” the question should be “why not be a nudist?” Right? Enough said.

Posted on December 8, 2006

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3 thoughts on “The Next Big Idea

  1. Gershette

    Rabbi Dorf says that the American Jewish Community is in a major demographic crisis. Okay, well instead of encouraging earlier marriage and procreation, why not get some of these benefactors and institutions to offer a scholarship for converting? I mean it’s not as if any plan is going to be perfect, but it’s an idea.

  2. Pingback: Jewschool » Blog Archive » The Next Big Jewish Idea: Jew It Yourself

  3. Pingback: Canonist » Blog Archive » Was There Ever a “Big Jewish Idea”?

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