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October 03, 2003 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-10-03

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The Other 60 Percent

New York Cite

Rabbi Kerry Olitzky is executive direc-
tor of the Jewish Outreach Institute
(JOI). Paul Golin is assistant executive
director of JOI. Their e-mail address is

with them."
— when newcomers
The question almost
actually walk into our
no one seems to voice
institutions. But that's
is, what if our institu-
not happening nearly
tions aren't fine? What
enough. So we must
if there's something
take our programming
wrong with us if we
to where the people
can't engage the
are rather than waiting
majority of our fellow
for them to come to
Special Commentary
us. We call this
At the Jewish
"Public Space
Outreach Institute, we
do a lot of work with communal insti-
For example, the NJPS study shows
tutions to help them find and serve
that a large majority of Jews still
"the other 60 percent." And we've cer-
attends Passover seders. So if you want
tainly encountered plenty of receptive
to run a program before Passover to
professionals who seem glad to be gen-
reach unaffiliated families, where do
tly reminded that all those familiar
you hold it? In a synagogue, or a JCC?
faces showing up to their events are
Or do you go where those people
not their whole Jewish community.
actually are: the matzah aisle of the
But at the end, of the day, these profes-
local supermarket?
sionals return to institutions that offer
• We need to build coalitions. In
little flexibility for real change.
most communities, Jewish institutions
work primarily by themselves with lit-
If Jewish institutions want to stay
relevant, change
must come from
the top down,
from lay leaders
and executives
who use their
muscle and sheer
will to demand
de idea of what else is going on
that we do better and change our "cor-
around them. They're points on a map
porate culture."
rather than part of an interconnected
Our Action Plan
But each institution cannot be all
In order to foster change, these leaders
things to all people. The community
needs to "bridge" people — from zero
need to understand the new landscape:
involvement to some activity to deeper
• The definition of "outreach" has
engagement — and for that to happen,
evolved. Programs that welcome new-
the organized community needs to talk
corners into our institutions are great

to each other and, yes, work together.
For example, now that we've got a
(trained) professional in the matzah
aisle of the supermarket engaging an
unaffiliated shopper who's trying to
figure out the difference between
Streits and shmurah, what do we do
Is that professional only interested in
finding new members for one particu-
lar synagogue? Or does that outreach
worker come armed with a full knowl-
edge of communal activities, from
Jewish film festivals to book circles to
JCCs to synagogues.
• We need to sensitize our con-
stituency. The biggest fear (and ugliest
smear) against outreach efforts is that
they will somehow damage that pre-
cious 40 percent of Jews who are
already participating in the communi-
ty. The counter to this is widespread
education and advocacy. Growing the
community is in everyone's interest —
so everyone must be on board as we
reinvent our institutions as outreach
In other words, everyone in that 40
percent of actively participating Jewry
must join Jewish professionals as "out-
reach workers" if our institutions are
to survive, thrive and grow. This isn't
an impossible proposition; after all,
the unengaged 60 percent are not
some invading foreign army but rather
our own family members.
If the latest population survey pro-
duces a new resolve in our leaders to
reach all Jews — not just the "Jews we
know" — and finally begins a sus-
tained push to expand our borders, it
will be worth all the time, effort and
expense. ❑

murder and three charges of attempted
murder following a March 2003 frag-
ging incident against his fellow soldiers.
The Akbar incident prompted
Deanne Stillman of Slate magazine to
conclude that "Islamists may be infil-
trating the military in order to under-
mine it."
That infiltration also has a mundane
quality, as shown by the example of
Nabil Elibiary. He's an Islamist who
protests the "defaming" of bin Laden
and defends polygamy — and who also
led the holiday prayer service at an Air
Force base in early 2003. The executive
branch's insistence on "terrorism" being
the enemy, rather than militant Islam,
permits this Islamist penetration.
And it continues. The Defense

Department responded last week to the
chaplain's arrest by defending its hiring
practices. Only under external pressure,
notably from Sens. Chuck Schumer
and Jon Kyl, did it agree to reassess
Even then, the Pentagon insisted on
reviewing the appointments of all
2,800 military chaplains — rather than
the 12 Muslims among them.
Political correctness run amok!
Which Christian or Jewish chaplains
would be accused, as was their Muslim
colleague last week, the Washington
Times reports, of "sedition, aiding the
enemy, spying, espionage and failure to
obey a general order"?
By pretending not to see that the
enemy emerges from one source, the

authorities dilute their focus and render
their review nearly meaningless and
endangering security.
The U.S. government needs to use
common sense and focus on militant
Islam. It should consider such steps as:
• Breaking off contact with organiza-
tions (like the Islamic Society of North
America and the American Muslim
Armed Forces and Veterans Council)
that place Islamists in government
• Suspending currently employed
Muslim personnel who got their jobs
through those institutions until their
loyalty can be confirmed.
• Finding anti-Islamist organizations
to work with, such as the Islamic
Supreme Council of America for Sunni

Muslims and the American Muslim
Congress for Shi'ites.
• Confirming that government-
employed Muslims do, as many of
them swore under oath, "support and
defend the Constitution of the United
States against all enemies, foreign and
domestic." A mechanism is needed to
identify employees with an Islamist
outlook and expel them from govern-
ment service.
Ironically, the Defense Department
finds it easier to kill Islamists in
Afghanistan than to exclude them from
its own ranks. But only if the latter is
carried out can Americans be confident
their government is fully protecting
them. ❑


he new National Jewish
Population Survey (NJPS)
shines its light on a serious
problem in the organized
Jewish communal world that is rarely
discussed, but is surely contributing to
the decline in our numbers.
The overwhelming majority of
Jewish institutions are serving an
underwhelming minority of Jews.
Only about 40 percent of America's
Jewish population is engaged in insti-
tutions such as synagogues, JCCs and
federations, with a much smaller per-
centage actually participating widely in
those institutions.
The problem is that too many
Jewish communal professionals see this
40 percent as 100 percent. Their entire
universe is "the Jews we know" rather
than the Jews we don't know, and they
tacitly or overtly concentrate on get-
ting the less-involved segments of the
40 percent more involved — without
giving much effort or thought to the
other 60 percent.
Basically, it's a "washing of our
hands" of those pesky folks (i.e., the
majority) who don't find our institu-
tions compelling enough to either
walk through our doors or pay our
membership fees.
Another way to say this is: "Our
institutions are fine; if people don't
participate, there's something wrong

If Jewish institutions want to
stay relevant, change must come
from the top down.

10/ 9



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