Jource: eJewish Philanthropy
I shared my personal story earlier this fall, as the opening introduction to a panel I offered at the Israeli-American Council (IAC)) national conference in Washington DC. At this conference over 2100 American Jews and Israeli-Americans asked questions about identity formation and the future of our community and children. We explored ways to connect American Jews with Israeli-Americans and worked together to strengthen our connection to Israel.
The reality today is that many American Jews, like Israeli-Americans, live far away from their home communities and families. In many cases, both parents are working full-time and rely upon strangers to raise their children; many are in interfaith partnerships trying to find a path with which both parents will feel comfortable. They are also questioning the identity of their children; and the identity of their young family. The questions that we must ask as a community are: Who will help them and guide them as they make their initial choices that determine the path that they will follow? Will the Jewish community take responsibility and be there for them? Will the Jewish community invest in this population to secure a strong Jewish foundation for those families, a foundation of thick Jewish identity that will then lead to future Jewish engagement?
During my IAC panel, Dr. Neta Peleg-Oren, Owner, of Psychotherapy and Mindfulness Private Practice located in Miami, Florida, shared research in the field and her work with families. She emphasized how the first few years in the life of a child and family are so crucial in the formation of identity. Arnee Winshall, President & CEO of Hebrew at the Center Inc., added to Dr. Peleg-Oren’s discussion about identity by presenting research findings on the impact of maintaining Hebrew language, Israeli culture and Jewish engagement in the home as it relates to identity and self-esteem. Jeanne Lovy, VP of the JCCs of Greater Boston, who works locally in Boston but also works very closely with Mark Horowitz nationally (JCCA), shared JCCA’s new strategy for working with the family as a whole.
A lot is being done, but it is not enough. We are doing better by reaching out to parents and engaging them but we are still very weak following through with “next-step” programming that will sustain meaningful, high quality and deep connections. We have opened the door for many families, but now we need to bring them in and make them feel comfortable so they will stay. Like Abraham in the desert who went out of the tent to look for guests, after he found them he did everything he could to make them comfortable. We need to make it a priority to devote more attention and resources to sustaining our connection to this population.
Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.