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August 02, 1985 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-08-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, August 2, 1985 25

Resouling The World

The second Radius Institute
outreach conference produced
no resolutions, took no votes,
decided no controversies, but
it did bring together a group
of lively people for two and a
half days of stimulating dis-
cussion about unaffiliated and
disaffected Jews.

BY SHERWOOD D. KOHN

Special to The Jewish News

There are, in the United
States, an increasing number
of unaffiliated and disaffect-
ed Jews, and many of them —
more than ever before — are
marrying non-Jews.
There is also, in the face of
a trend toward tradition, a
growing polarization of ob-
servant and non-observant
Jews.
And underlying these prob-
lems, or perhaps hanging
over them, is the heightened
perception that Jewish identi-
ty is being threatened, and
that it is important for those
who have a clear sense of
Jewish identity to reach out
to those who don't, and bring
them back into the fold.
These emergent issues pre-
occupied the second Radius
Institute outreach con-
ference, held June 19-21 at
the Stony Point Conference
in Rockland County, N.Y.
But their dominance was not
intentional.
The gathering was intend-
ed to be a "national training
seminar" focused on the tech-
niques and problems encoun-
tered by "outreach" workers
in their pursuit of unaffiliated
and disaffected Jews, not a
two and a half day explora-
tion of the issues confronting
Judaism.
As it turned out, the issues
were unavoidable, and over-

whelmed the techniques. But
intellectual passion carries its
own rewards, and order is not
an invariable goal. Perhaps,
in the long run, the fact that
some of the best outreach
workers in the national Jew,
ish community `got !together
and talked, was enough to
justify a conference'that may
someday be known as one of
he quarter century's seminal
Jewish gatherings.

t



There are conferences and
conferences. This one was clif-

ferent from most. There was
even some doubt about
whether it could be called a
conference. Actually it was
billed as a training seminar,
but it turned out to be
something else. A "teeming
microcosm". might be a more
precise description.
Whatever it was, it incor-
porated a fairly broad spec-
trum of Jewish professionals,
most of whom identify them-
selves as outreach workers,
who had come to the isolated
conference center about 40
miles north of Manhattan,
to listen, talk, exchange ideas
and perhaps learn how best
to reach out to Jews who
have dropped out of their
social or religious commun-
ities.
And for two and a half
days, more than 100 rabbis
and sociologists, Jewish
Center directors and mem-
bers of Hadassah, psycho-
therapists and proselytizers,
writers and managers, moti-
vational psychologists and
Lubavitch community work-
ers, and a diverse mix of Or-
thodox, Conservative and Re-
form Jews ate together, as-
sembled for lectures and dis-
cussions, argued, . slept in
ranch-style dormitories and
generally engaged in an ac
tivity that has come to be
called "networking."
It was a varied and in

Many ways a colorful group.
Among the participants were
a sprinkling of doctoral can-
Oates, a pair of bitter and
vociferous rivals, an English
professor, a woman nursing
her Imby, a mashgiach, enter-
tainers, men in sports clotbse,
others in more formal attire
with Weis hanging from
their waists, kids climbing
trees, women in slacks and
skids, the outgoing director
of New York's 92nd Street
VASA, AU Advert's* man,
journalists, the, author of a
bow-to book on public Ms.

Steve Shaw, Radius Institute director, introduces a speaker at one of the Stony Point seminar
sessions on "Working With Unaffiliated And Disaffected Jews."

tions, and a motivational
psychologist.
As a conference it was a
seminar, as a seminar it was
a talk fest, as a talk fest it
was an argument. There was
no containing it. It ran some-
what loosely according to a
schedule, and it accomplish-
ed little in the way of formal
objectives. No resolutions
were adopted, no controver-
sies decided, no votes taken.
But it was a rich soup, a
Judaic broth, a fertile pond of
intellectual exchange.. And it
brought people together,
aired important issues and
gave most of its attendees
enough contacts, points of
departure and intellectual
stimulation to last them un-
til the next Radius confer;
ence.
The organizational geniub

behind all this ferment was
Steven Shaw, a cherubic,
avuncular, 42-year-old New
Yorker who wears glasses, a
short beard and his shirt out-
side of hie pante. A former
Hillel director at Rutgers,
Shaw parlayed a "Resouling

the World" lecture series,
held in the back room of the
old Radius Bookstore on
Manhattan's upper west side
in 1977, into an institute with
a $250,000 budget and offices
in the CUNY Graduate Center
at 33 West 42nd Street. He •
has a vision of the outreach
person as a kind of worker-
priest.
It was this vision that led
Shaw to set up his "training
center" at Stony Point. Ac-
tually, the seminar evolved in
conjunction with research by
one of Shaw's friends, Egon
Mayer, a professor of sociol-
ogy at. Brooklyn College.
Radius received an $18,000.
grant from the New York
Federation of Jewish Char-
ities to da research on;non-

affilitated Jews in New York.
Shawasked Mayer to take on
the job'' as a kind of nucleus
for the seminar, which also
received grant money from
the Federation and about 15
other contributors.
Mayer's research resulted
in a paw entitled "Reaching
To ;ouch," in which the pro-

'

fessor explored "some of the
distinctions that we must
begin to make if we are to
undertake the 'outreach'
enterprise effectively," and
roughly defined the para-
meters of thel problem:
* Fewer than half of all
Jewish heads of households
belong to a synagogue.
* Even fewer belong to
any secular Jewish organi-
zation.
▪ In Boston, which typi-
fies the trendy Jewish adult
non-affiliation with syna-
gogues increased 13 percent
between 1965 and 1975.
* The proportion of Jews
who did not belong to any
secular Jewish organization
increased from 50 to 62 per-
cent between 1965 and 1975.
* In New York, only 40

percent of the adult Jewish
population belonged to syn..
ugogues in 1981.
* Fifty percent of the
single Jewish• adults in New

York never attend services in
a s ynagogue.

* The rate of Jewish inter-

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