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Jewish Education Boost
e YZ OY
Donor offers $10 million to Steinhardt-initiated
fund, but with secular string attached.
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Jewish Telegraphic Agency
f Felix Posen had his way,
American Jewish schools
would teach the Bible less as a
holy book than as a classic
work of literature.
"You teach Judaism as a culture.
You start with the Bible, the first
piece of literature we Jews created,"
Posen said. "God is not dead; he is a
literary hero like Anna Karenina."
Some may consider that heresy,
but Posen maintains that about half
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of American Jews who identify as
cultural Jews and do not affiliate
with any religious denomination
would agree with him.
That led the millionaire donor
from London to become the first
Jewish philanthropist to answer Wall
Street wizard Michael Steinhardt's
recent call for others to match his
own $10 million pledge toward a
$100 million Fund for Our Jewish
Future, which would focus on Jewish
education at all grade levels.
The Center for Cultural Judaism
in New York, backed by the Posen
Foundation, which is based in
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Lucerne, Switzerland, pledged $10
million to Steinhardt's proposed
fund — provided that about half of
the total money goes to teaching sec-
ular and unaffiliated Jews about
Judaism from a cultural, non-reli-
Steinhardt said he wanted to study
the proposal further before com-
A New Yorker, Steinhardt is chair-
man of Jewish Renaissance Media,
parent company of the Detroit Jewish
News and Atlanta Jewish Times. He
said the proposed fund is a response
to decreasing Jewish identification
among non-Orthodox Jews in the
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Posen and the center, which he sup-
ports and which serves as the clear-
inghouk for the Secular Humanistic -
Judaism movement, say the money
would reverse a decline in Jewish
activity by addressing the education-
al needs of those who consider
themselves culturally Jewish.
In making their case, they point to
the 2001 American Jewish Identity
Survey, by the Center for Jewish
Studies at the Graduate Center of
the City University of New York.
The study, which Posen helped
bankroll, found that 49 percent of
Americans born or raised as Jews
consider themselves secular to some
In the wake of that study, the
2000-01 National Jewish Population
Survey found that 44 percent of the
4.3 million Jews with some kind of
Jewish connection did not affiliate
with a synagogue, Jewish community
center or other Jewish institution.
That overlap shows that about half
of American Jews who either are sec-
ular or unaffiliated with a Jewish
movement are "currently not served
by most of Jewish life," said Myrna
Baron, executive director of the
Center for Cultural Judaism.
Steinhardt long has supported
Jewish day schools and programs
such as college Hillels and Birthright
Israel (which sends young Jews to