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January 31, 1986 - Image 37

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-01-31

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

Friday, January 31, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

11)11111
GET REM •

Custom
Dining Rooms
all colors & styles — tee delivery

Call The Jewish News

354-6060

Treat Him To

Friendly and muted, its decor
was almost Oriental in its
pleasant restraint.
"Well, I don't know,” said
Mayer. 'Sage' would be too
grandiose. Because most of us
are too young. When you think
of a sage you think of an old,
wise person who has the wisdom
of many generations. On the
other hand, this generation, by
virtue of its educational oppor-
tunities, has the wisdom that its
elders probably never had, sim-
ply because they never had the
exposure to learning.
"These people study Jewish
history systematically and pro-
fessionally. They accumulate
Jewish knowledge, write about
it, produce Jewish scholarship in
a way that their elders never
did. So, in a way, I am talking
about sages. But, I'm reluctant
to use the term. You don't ex-
pect young people to be called
sages. If you're young and
sagacious," he said with a mis-
chievous smile, "then you're re-
ally an upstart."
Nevertheless, Mayer pointed
out, an interesting relationship
has developed between the
sociologists and rabbis. The lat-
ter have been using social scien-
tists as a source of data about
the community. And what they
are learning is that nonaffilia-
tion is one of the Jewish com-
munity's emerging patterns.
"As nonaffiliation becomes
more and more of a reality," he
said, "those who are leaders
within the community are not
reliable guides to what's going
on outside. The people they're
interested in are not part of
their world.
have the
"Sociologists
methodology to talk to those
people because we take surveys,
we are on the college campus
and we mingle in a layer of soc-
iety, which by virtue of our pro-
fessional affiliations, brings us
into personal contact with
people who ire not likely to
show up in synagogue or the
men's club. We come with cer-
tain skills that the more estab-
lished leadership doesn't have,
and we also have the contacts
and the social experiences that
puts us in touch with the popu-
lation that they're interested in,
but are losing contact with."
Moreover, said Mayer, the
sociologist deals with groups,
with quantitative information,
an approach that dovetails
neatly with the changes in soci-
ety that have been wrought by
technology and mass communi-
cation.
"We may be losing the one-
on-one contact," he explained,
"but given the nature of the
modern marketplace and the
marketplace of ideas, you need
not necessarily lose contact. You
just have to market our ideas
differently. We may have to
think about how to use media,
influence imagery. That's where
I think the social scientist has a
lot of skills; not only the re-
search skills, but also a certain
way of looking at things; the
ability to look critically at in-
stitutions and cultural produc-
tion.

"I think we are losing the bat-
tle over images. That's ironic
when you think that we are
amongst the most clever
image-makers in this society.
We are not doing a good job of
projecting the kind of positive
Jewish images that make people
want to be more involved."
In the past, Mayer said, you
kept the culture cohesive by
isolating it and insulating it
from outside influences. You
kept foreign ideas out and
people in. That is no longer pos-
sible. We are more public than
ever before. That means that we
also have to be more assertive,
not in a proselytizing way, but
as marketers. Which means that
the contemporary Jew must first
have a clear self-image, and
then sell it.
"I shudder to fall back on all
this marketing technology," said
Mayer, "but one of the ways in
which you position products and
brands is to emphasize what
people need and then what's
special about that, rather than
what's the same. You don't sell
toothpaste by saying that your
toothpaste is just as good as all
the other toothpastes, or is
exactly like Brand X. You tell
how your toothpaste is distinctly
different from Brand X: 'We
think it's better. We think you'd
be happier using it.'
"It's not just the physical
image of Judaism that you're
trying to sell. That's part of it,
but it's also the lifestyle image.
We live in an age in which; re-
gardless of whether you're Or-
thodox, Conservative or Reform,
there's much more awareness of
consumerism, leisure time, the
aesthetic values of life. There's
an enormous emphasis on en-
joyment of leisure, home decora-
tion, personal care, in a way
that didn't exist before.
"The image of the traditional
Jew as being purely interested
in the hereafter still isn't true.
Second, it isn't going to sell. The
focus is on making your life a
better life in this world. And
that, by the way, is possible.
Judaism has always been very
person-centered, very life-
affirming. And that's very at-
tractive. Not only to Jews, but
to non-Jews.
"Judaism's rituals," said
Mayer, "are life-confirming, its
lifestyles and family structure
very much focused on improving
life here and now. So I think it's
possible to emphasize these
things in a way that would be
attractive to a generation that is
very health-conscious, very per-
sonalistic in its outlook on life. I
think Judaism emphasizes self-
expression and self-fulfillment,
both on its emphasis on joy and
on personal participation and
ritual.
"Here, too, you need the social
scientist to reflect back to the
community the nature of mod-
ern consciousness. The . rabbis
don't do that. Your average lay
leader is not concerned with it.
We have to develop a new kind
of professional who handles the
one-to-one contact. The problem

,

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