As the world has reopened, the frequency with which I am in meetings over coffee and meals has increased. Too frequently during our conversations, especially if the person with whom I am speaking is over the age of 70, we land upon a concern shared by so many: what to do about the next generation. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. We worry about our young people’s interest in community, in serving and supporting our organizations, about whether they are prioritizing the Jewish community in their daily decisions.
And these concerns are real. I know many people in my own demographic of 50-65 who have more or less checked out. Some say they’ve already done their time volunteering for various Jewish organizations. Some never got involved in the first place. Truthfully, it’s been a bit surprising for me to observe, since I know how many in our greater Denver Jewish community participated in Hebrew High, were active in BBYO, went on a Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour (IST), attended a Jewish camp, and frequented the JCC. Because Denver is home to multiple generations of families, I know that those same people’s children got PJ Library books in the mail, attended Jewish day schools, and went on IST trips just like their parents did.
But the transmission of these kinds of Jewish communal traditions is not guaranteed.
And yet there is hope. Take this data point from a PJ Library survey: 77% of families who receive the monthly Jewish-themed books want to feel connected to the Jewish community. More than half of those respondents say that they do feel connected to the Jewish community. While there is much work to do, there is also a real desire for connection—to Jewish values, to Jewish civic life, to Jewish community.
This week’s Torah reading, Ki Tavo, recounts Moses’s final moments and his plea to the people of Israel to hear God’s voice and walk God’s path. Today, our calling is to listen to the multitude of voices in our community; they are searching for a path that will lead into our community. How we answer their calls is likely to be a critical factor in determining who will care for the Jewish community in generations to come.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.