A story of connection and community

Feb 18, 2020 | Article

A story of connection and community

A few months ago, a headline in the Times of Israel trumpeted that, according to a study by Brandeis University’s Steinhardt Social Research Institute, the American Jewish population has grown ten percent in the last seven years.

Without delving, d’var-like, into the details of the study’s methodology, one can hypothesize that reports of the death of the American Jew are, if not greatly, at least somewhat exaggerated.

A second Times of Israel article from just last week touted a Ruderman Foundation study that found that a strong majority of U.S. Jews feel an abiding attachment to Israel, despite a general sense that American Jewish support for Israel is weakening.

Jewish pessimism—about the future of Israel, about the future of the Jewish people, about the future—is a cultural cliché, and like all clichés, it contains, at its core, a grain of truth. But a grain does not a mountain make. It’s no surprise that a people whose history dates back millennia and has included calamities and convulsions, to say nothing of atrocities and expulsions, should find itself inclined toward anxiety. But the actual data, as evidenced in the aforementioned studies, tells a different story.

A story of connection and community. A story of expansion and evolution.
A counter-story.

I’m not a statistician, but one conclusion I draw from the growing number of survey respondents who identify as Jewish is that Jewish identity is expanding. I imagine that some portion of those survey respondents woke up on the day they were asked about their religious affiliation and said, in effect, Today I choose, from amongst all of my intersecting identities, to be Jewish. It makes no difference how I choose to be Jewish, just that I choose to be Jewish.

Supporting that choice is a fundamental mission of JEWISHcolorado. We help connect people, however they define themselves, to the Jewish community. Devoid of labels (what kind of Jew are you?), devoid of expectations (you should be this kind of Jew), devoid of limits (what does it mean to be Jewish), we bring the marketplace of ideas—about Jewish values and politics, traditions and rituals, about Jewish culture, liturgy, and literature, about the Jewish homeland, Jewish history, and the Jewish people—to you, so you can choose every day to be Jewish in exactly the way that’s right for you.

—Rabbi Jay Strear