Dedicated volunteers are revitalizing
the Grand Rapids Jewish community.
CARLA JEAN SCHWARTZ
A profile look at the many interests
of scholarly Phillip Applebaum.
Pins And Needles
Nathan Weindling hits the pins
on two very different fronts.
Young Students at a Jerusalem School: Change and experiment.
Search For Unaffiliated Jews
Special to the Jewish News
aptain Kirk and the crew went
searching for Mr. Spock in a re-
cent Star Trek reprise. Porgy went
searching for Bess. Sidney Greenstreet and
a slippery Peter Lorre went on one more
troubled expedition to find the Maltese
Falcon. Meanwhile, Jewish organizations
and institutions continue to seek the ever
elusive "unaffiliated Jew."
The search for the unaffiliated Jew is
a misguided effort. The biggest problem we
face is not in rates of affiliation, either with
synagogues or temples or other Jewish
organizations. It is levels of involvement
that should concern us most.
Study after study in the 1980s, whether
in St. Louis, San Francisco, Baltimore, New
Orleans, or other cities, show that most
Jews are affiliated. Some may belong to a
synagogue or temple. Others belong to one
Jewish organization or another. Most Jews
make some nominal gift to some Jewish
philanthropy. Most Jewish children receive
some Jewish education. The majority at-
tend High Holiday services, even if they do
not belong to a synagogue or temple.
When all of these are added together,
the total encompasses the great majority
of Jews. Those who do none of these things
are likely to be over the age of 65 and used
to belong to some organization or institu-
tion, or under the age of 30 and plan to join
in the future. Proportionately, few Jews are
totally disconnected, totally unaffiliated.
Rates of true non-affiliation are found to be
Gary Tobin is the director of the Center for Modern
Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.
highest among intermarried Jews.
The real problem can be found in the
level of commitment, involvement, and ac-
tivity for connected Jews who are inactive
within the organizational and institutional
structure. The reason Jewish organizations
search so hard for unaffiliated Jews is
because most affiliated Jews are invisible
within the Jewish communal structure.
They are members, but in name only.
While Jews give something to Jewish
causes, the vast majority give only a few
dollars. Most Jews who belong to Jewish
organizations volunteer no time for them.
Jews go to a synagogue or temple, but on-
ly once or twice a year, or to drop off their
children at Hebrew school.
The search for the unaffiliated is a cop-
out. It allows Jewish organizations to focus
outward instead of looking critically in-
ward. Jews already are connected in some
way, or will be, or used to be. Certainly we
should make every attempt to reach out to
those who are totally outside the organiza-
tional and institutional structure. But that
search should not serve as a smoke screen
to the obvious problems of involving those
who will be marginally drawn to Jewish
communal life at some point. Marriages,
birth of children, children becoming school
age, illness and death are all life cycle
events that bring Jews into contact with
Jewish organizations and institutions.
What do we do to expand that contact?
The most pressing and vital challenge
we have is increasing levels of involvement
and participation. That requires creating
new volunteer jobs, undertaking new and
broader agendas in our institutions and
organizations, opening up leadership
Continued on Page 12
lzhok Prikupets has become a favorite
entertainer of Detroit's Jewish seniors.
Author Jerzy Kosinski rarely travels
far from his vivid imagination.
Some men have made a conscious decision
to avoid a formal, long-term commitment.
Life In Israel
May 6, 1988 8:18 p.m.
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS