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February 22, 2007 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2007-02-22

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for communal programing. One is
alarmist: If the Jewish community
is rapidly shrinking, then it must
be saved. The other is optimistic:
More potential Jews means more
people to bring back to the core.
But the numbers suggest that the
community, even if it is growing,
has not been effective in certain
areas — penetrating a much small-
er portion of the Jewish population
than previously thought — and
it will take more programming to
reach the underaffiliated.
That also means significantly
more philanthropic funding will be
needed, Saxe said.
Philanthropists such as Michael
Steinhardt, who funds Saxe's insti-
tute, are looking at the new num-
bers as a rallying call.
"What is of great concern is the
fact that the institutional Jewish
world is serving fewer people, less
meaningfully than we thought
before," Steinhardt said before the
report came out.
The new report also represents a
challenge to the Jewish federation
system, which already knew it was
collecting fewer dollars from fewer
donors, but now must consider that
it is actually receiving money from
an even smaller percentage of its
donor base.
If Saxe is correct, the under-
counting of Jews in their 20s means
that even successful programs, such
as Birthright Israel, will have to
redouble their efforts.
For the organized Jewish world,
the challenge is to reach the demo-
graphic of Jews between college
entry and marriage, about an 11-
year period.
But it's not time to panic, accord-
ing to Sanford Cardin, executive
director of the Charles and Lynn
Schusterman Family Foundation,
a major funder of programs that
target young Jews. The challenge is
the same whether there are 5.4 mil-
lion American Jews or more than 6
million, Cardin said.
"Jewish life is not about provid-
ing services and programs:' Cardin
said. "It is about attracting, engag-
ing and infusing people with a way
of living that they can choose to
live.
"Ultimately, this isn't about creat-
ing a pot of money. This is about
sparking renewed interest and
understanding of Jewish life by a
large number of Jewish people. It's
about reaching the individual." L711

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February 22 • 2007

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