Mediterranean Family Size - Religious Israeli Jewish Women Win (Lose?)

Women and Demography in the Mediterranean States (2009), by Ariela Keysar, compiles and analyzes demographic data from Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Italy, Greece, Spain, and France.

The general results were unsurprising - lower fertility is associated with women's greater participation in the workplace and educational, civil and social equality. More surprising, however, is that family size has decreased across the board, even in the most religious countries (based on questions about the importance of God and religion in people's lives).

For example, Morocco has the lowest rate of female literacy and education, and also relatively low female workplace participation, nevertheless saw the average number of children per woman decrease from 6.9 at the beginning of the '70s to 2.4 in the last couple of years. The highest current fertility rate is in Syria, which is only 3.1.

This data suggests that somehow, contraceptive technology, education, and use, is penetrating even through both political oppression and religious conservatism. Unfortunately, the scope of the article doesn't include an exploration of the cause and means for this transformation, but it certainly seems encouraging.

The article includes some reflections on Israel:

Israel is a unique example of an advanced country with a modern health system, high educational attainment of women and high level of female labor force participation (Figure 9-8), and yet a high total fertility rate of 2.8. Israeli data are for Jewish women only. DellaPergola showed major differences in fertility patterns by religiosity among Jewish women in Israel. In 2005, the most religious Jewish women had 4.7 children compared with only 1.7 children for secular Jewish women. DellaPergola attributed the large gaps to “powerful differentiation of family norms related to religious norms and religiosity.”

 It's interesting and probably unfortunate that the Israel data only seems to count Jewish women. One advantage of that is that it perhaps offers a clearer picture of the role of religious versus political/civic influences on fertility.

The religious Jewish fertility rate of 4.7 seems incredibly high, considering that no Mediterranean country (but Syria) has a rate over 3. Perhaps in this case, higher levels of women's health care and achievement actually contribute to a higher fertility rate?

For more insight, explore BJPA's resources on Jewish fertility and family size.


2010 American Jewry Population Estimate

Leonard Saxe (who "took sociology to the max" this year - along with BJPA director Steven M. Cohen)  released his 2010 report on American Jewry. Some highlights:

  • Reform and Orthodox-raised Jews are most likely to retain their denomination identity as adults
  • There are 6,466,899 American Jews, an increase of about one million since 1990.
  • 77% of American male Jews have had a bar mitzvah. 43% of female Jews have had a bat mitzvah.
  • Younger Jews (18-29) are the least likely to label themselves "Jewish not by religion".

 Compare with, for example, Statistics of Jews 1899-1900, which reports that the US Jewish population increased from 3,000 in 1818 to 937,800 in 1897.

Sergio DellaPergola's 2010 World Jewish Population estimate is out too:

At the beginning of 2010, the world’s Jewish population was estimated at 13,428,300—an increase of 80,300 (0.6 percent) over the 2009 revised estimate. The world's total population increased by 1.25 percent in 2009. World Jewry hence increased at half the general population growth rate.

Doing Good Well

Repair the World's new report on their short term Jewish service learning programs takes on the efficacy question from the other side: Instead of asking if the programs are doing Jewish well, it asks whether they're doing good well.

In that sense, it's an interesting counter-point to studies like the Cohen Center's 3 part set on the Break New Ground Jewish Service Learning Initiative. The Second Year: Evaluation of the Break New Ground Jewish Service Learning Initiative  In their second year report, for example, "researchers examined characteristics of participants, their reactions to fundamental components of the BNG program, and the impacts of BNG on participants’ development of a Jewish perspective on service, commitment to volunteerism and social action, and connections to Jewish life." Contrast that to Repair the World's study, which "was designed to capture how a host community’s experience with short-term IJSL programs affected the community from the perspective of the leaders of the community based organizations/non-governmental organizations (CBO/NGO) in those communities."

Short term service/volunteering programs have been subject to skepticism, both inside and outside the Jewish community. For example, earlier this year, the Human Sciences Research Council issued a scathing report  about the "thriving industry of AIDS orphan tourism": even when the orphanages in question and their needs are legitimate, hosting volunteers increases overhead significant overhead costs to the orphanage, crowd out local workers, and subject the children to a continual formation and dissolution of caregiver relationships and the attendant psychological costs.

Nevertheless, Repair the World's study found that it is very possible to run a short term service program that brings both short and long term benefits not just to participants but to the host community itself. Some benefits they identified included:

  • Projects can jump start residents into participating in the service.
  • Projects are opportunities for host communities to develop local leaders.
  • Host communities receive resources that they would not otherwise have.
  • Host communities enjoy and feel they benefit from cultural exchange with volunteers.
  • Host community members build individual relationships and make meaningful connections with the volunteers.
  • Participation in short-term IJSL projects can also contribute to a shift in community self-identity — an enhanced belief among community members that they have the inherent capacity to be strong and vibrant moving forward.

Interestingly, they also found that the fact that the service programs were Jewish made a much bigger difference for Jewish host communities than non-Jewish ones.

Through qualitative interviews, they identified challenges of running a good short term program and tactics for running it well. Certain organizational elements must be in place in both the host community and the organization running the short term program, and they must share a common understanding of the possibilities and limits of a short term program.

Repair the World's report and the Cohen Center's reports on the Break New Ground program often complement one another and reinforce each-others' findings. For example, the Cohen Center found that

The most frequent answer to an open-ended survey question about the greatest disappointment with their BNG experience was the service work itself, cited by 24% of respondents. As one participant explained, “the community service work we did wasn’t real work and wasn’t really beneficial to the community.”

...and Repair the World makes the following recommendation:

 The short time frame of these IJSL [intensive Jewish service learning] programs means that only some projects are appropriate. Within these time limits, host community representatives say it is important for both the volunteers and the community to be able to see the result of their work. IJSL organizations and host communities are mindful of this when planning a project.

With the popularity of service learning programs apparently growing, it is frankly a relief to hear that the Jewish community is not (necessarily) working to build Jewish identity in a way that harms other communities and that our programs can and do bring both short term and lasting benefits to others. At the conclusion of the report, Repair the World offers a series of best practices and recommendations for short term programs (and Repair the World itself). Most of these are not specifically Jewish and should be of great use to any organization planning service projects - as research on the ground is regrettably slight across the board. Kudos.

Jewish Nonprofit Management > Jewish Communal Service

Earlier today, the HUC-JIR school of Jewish Communal Service was relaunched as the School for Jewish Nonprofit Management. EJewish Philanthropy reports that

it is the only graduate program of its kind that is embedded within a Jewish institution of higher learning and enjoys a special partnership with its neighbor, the University of Southern California. Students at the SJNM receive a cutting-edge education in nonprofit management grounded in Jewish history and values, as well as the opportunity to earn one of five dual degrees at USC.

Earlier this year, HUC-JIR student Carly Brown submitted her thesis, "Informing a Branding Strategy: A Competitive Analysis for the School of Jewish Communal Service" in which she analyzed three other, competing, dual-degree Jewish studies nonprofit management studies programs (including our own here at NYU Wagner). Her study included a detailed consideration of the naming/branding issue.

SJCS needs to pay particular attention to how it markets and brands its new name to potential Social Work students so that they do not feel alienated by the term “management.” In speaking with current SJCS students, who were also enrolled in the dual degree Social Work program at USC, many of them felt that the term “management” did not encompass the skills that they were aiming to obtain in their graduate program.

In an earlier blog entry, I explored whether the Jewish fundraiser was the new Jewish social worker, in terms of the Jewish community's concern about educating and nurturing these communal professionals. The renaming of HUC-JIR's academic program for Jewish communal professionals certainly seems to support the idea that the Jewish community is moving from a social work focus to a management orientation.

Predictably, perhaps, Brown found that "Generally, students in favor of the name change were dual degree students at USC earning an MPA, while those who were more tentative about it were dual Master students at USC in the School of Social Work." In fact, some students expressed strong distaste for the language of 'service':

She was turned off by the use of “service” in the title of SJCS; she felt that it reminded her of “servitude” and made her think of “the Federation worker, but not so much the person who is going to run the institution.”... [A community influencer] further explained “the words themselves, [referring to the name SJCS] are seen as being a servant, or diminishing,” and that the new name would be great for the school if it was “truly indicative of a new focus” and not just a cosmetic change.

 Of course the Jewish community needs, and has always needed, managers and non-managers and HUC-JIR is continuing to offer the programs to train both.

Whether the new name is indicative of a new focus or a cosmetic change, is moving from the discourse of 'service' to 'management' good for the Jewish community? Is it actually a positive expression of Jewish values? Will it bring greater professionalism to Jewish communal organization, or just greater commercialization? If someone's working on a thesis on this question, please send it our way!

Nov eNews: LGBT issues in the Jewish Community

Dear Friends,

These past months have seen a great deal of public and Jewish discussion on LGBT issues. There have been political struggles around 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and Proposition 8, controversy over the publication of a gay wedding announcement in the New Jersey Jewish Standard, and, tragically, a recent spate of suicides by young men. With the help of some fantastic content-sharing with organizations such as Keshet, the Union for Reform Judaism, TransTorah, and the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation at HUC-JIR, BJPA now contains over 130 documents on LGBT Issues in the Jewish community.

The issue of acceptance and marginalization of Lesbians and Gays has been on the American Jewish agenda for decades. The language of the Reform movement's National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, the predecessor of Women of Reform Judaism, in their 1965 resolution on Homosexuality is both familiar - strongly resembling the recent Orthodox "Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews With a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community - and jarring : "...homosexuality may be a symptom of psychiatric disturbance which requires sympathetic understanding and psychiatric evaluation...We, therefore, deplore the tendency on the part of community authorities to harass homosexuals." Twenty years later, the Journal of Jewish Communal Service noted that 43% of straight Jews were disturbed by the "rise in visibility of gay Jews," while 49% were not.

In the 1970s and 1980s, communities began to address the religious responses to issues arising from social changes. For example, the Reform movement came down against the formation of Gay and Lesbian congregations (1973) and religious marriage for homosexuals (1985), but in favor of the acceptance of homosexual converts (1982) and in favor of an end to legal discrimination against homosexuals (1977). Our earliest reference to Gay and Lesbian families is a 1986 Reform responsum about the issue of lesbian parents at their child's bar mitzvah.


Starting in the late 70s, more Jewish organizations openly addressed and confronted the challenges brought about by changing social norms. As early as 1976, Chicago's Jewish Family and Community Service took proactive steps to adapt their professional skills and knowledge in response to "changing lifestyles" including an increase in the number of homosexuals seeking counseling. Gerald Bubis included "homophiles" in the category of "experimental families" to be considered in thinking about The Jewish Community Center's Responsibility for the Needs of the Jewish Family (1975). In Resolving Ethical Dilemmas in the Jewish Community Center, Norman Linzer recounts how the Centers came to the conclusion of offering programs "to the families of gays but not for the gays themselves." In 1997, the Journal of Jewish Communal Service explored the Ethics of Gay and Lesbian Adoptions and specifically the question of Jewish children being adopted into gay and lesbian homes. Just last week, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach explored the same question on The Huffington Post.


Several movements and organizations have moved toward greater recognition and acceptance. In 1989, the Union for Reform Judaism's resolution on Gay and Lesbian Jews stated: "Our union of congregations must be a place where loneliness and suffering and exile end." Since then, a growing collection of literature has emerged on how to create inclusive Jewish spaces, from the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation's "Becoming a "Kehillah Mekabelet" (a "welcoming congregation") (1998), to Rabbi Steven Greenberg's Inclusion and Welcoming Criteria for Orthodox Synagogues (2004), TransTorah's Making Your Jewish Congregation or Community More Transgender Friendly and the Union for Reform Judaism's 18 Ways to Make Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Members Feel Welcome in Your Congregation 

Jewish organizations have also joined in on the political battles around LGBT issues, such as discrimination in the military (1991) and the Boy Scouts (2001). The Jewish community has been a particularly strong voice on the legislation of same-sex civil marriage. The Conservative (2006), Reform (1996), Reconstructionist (2004), and Humanistic (2004) movements have published resolutions in support while the Orthodox Union has consistently expressed concern (1999) and opposition (2006).

In recent years, the community has begun the serious study of Gay and Lesbian Jews as a demographic, a topic I have had the opportunity to explore in my own work, including Gay, Jewish, or Both? Sexual Orientation and Jewish Engagement (2009) and Gays, Lesbians, and the Conservative Movement: The JTS Survey of Conservative Clergy, Students, Professionals, and Lay Leaders (2007). Other key publications on this subject include LGBT Alliance Study: Needs Assessment of the San Francisco Bay Area LGBT Jewish Community (2010) and We Are You: An Exploration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Colorado's Jewish Community (2006).

Our communities have been and continue to be diverse in composition and in values, but I think that we share a commitment to the sacredness of life. The Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner has endorsed Keshet's grassroots campaign, "Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives," launched in response to the suicides of Raymond Chase (age 19), Tyler Clementi (age 18), Justin Aaberg (age 15), Asher Brown (age 13), and Seth Walsh (age 13). The campaign calls on individuals and organizationt to commit to "ending homophobic bullying or harassment of any kind in our synagogues, schools, organizations, and communities." 

With best wishes,
Prof. Steven M. Cohen
Director, Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner

What happened to Rabbi Solomon Freehof?

(This blog entry expands on one of the pieces noted in our November newsletter on LGBT issues in the American Jewish community. Don't miss it!)

In 1973, Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof wrote a responsum on the permissibility of Gay and Lesbian synagogues for the Reform movement. His position must have been at least somewhat unsurprising at the time, but looking back makes it clear how far the Reform movement has come in the last forty years:

 To sum up: Homosexuality is deemed in Jewish tradition to be a sin--not only in law, but in Jewish life practice. Nevertheless, it would be in direct contradiction to Jewish law to keep sinners out of the congregation. To isolate them into a separate congregation and thus increase their mutual availability is certainly wrong. It is hardly worth mentioning that to officiate at a so-called "marriage" of two homosexuals and to describe their mode of life as "Kiddushin" (i.e., sacred in Judaism) is a contravention of all that is respected in Jewish life.

Rabbi Freehof was born in 1892 and must have been about 81 years old when he wrote those words. By then, he'd already served as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the World Union for Progressive Judaism. He was also a congregational Rabbi in Pittsburgh for more than thirty-five years. He lived until he was 97.

In 1990, the year he died, the Reform movement issued Report of the CCAR Ad Hoc Committee on Homosexuality and the Rabbinate. By then, the movement had issued resolution recognizing the Human Rights of Homosexuals, Hebrew Union College officially admitted out Gay and Lesbian students, and there was support in the Reform rabbinate, albeit minority support, for religious gay marriage.

I wonder what he would have thought, if he had made it to 120, of where the Reform movement is today.

"Rabbi Freehof's positions on other issues are significantly more liberal. He supported women wearing a prayer shawl, for example, in part because "in our Reform movement . . . special emphasis is placed on the equality of men and women," and permitted gentiles who wished to to wear a prayer shawl in synagogue "for the sake of peace." This year, the Freehof Institute for Progressive Halacha, founded in 1989, is holding its annual symposium on the subject of bioethics."

Grooming new leaders

There's always more to say about Baby Boomers. Recently we've talked about where how retiring Jewish Baby Boomers can be kept engaged with Jewish institutions. How does it look from the other side?

What happens to the Jewish organizations left behind by their Baby Boomer executives?

Will there be a next generation behind them, ready to step up for leadership? The report, Executive Development & Succession Planning: A Growing Challenge for the American Jewish Community (2009), addresses this question.

While there are still idealistic college graduates entering the field, the vast majority tend to stay for 18 months to two years and then move on to gain more experience elsewhere. The desire of previous generations to devote a lifetime to Jewish communal service is rapidly disappearing

One problem is that many Jewish organizations don't have many positions in between the entry level and the executive level, and no clear, let alone satisfying path from one to the other. Agency heads say they would prefer to hire from the inside, but they just don't see the talent there. By the time it's time for consideration for top positions, they're long gone. Young people leave for the outside in search of better pay and opportunities, and then agencies must reach outside for their hiring of new executives.

Only a tiny minority of Jewish organizations actually have plans in place for the mentoring and grooming of a new generation of leaders, The report presents suggestions for Jewish organizations concerned with executive planning, Increasingly rigorous and specialized programs (like Wagner's own Dual-Degree Nonprofit Adminstration and Judaic Studies Program) are  preparing individuals to to lead and manage Jewish organizations - will those organizations be in a position to attract, retain, and benefit from their skills?


General Assembly 2010 Resource Guide

We've prepared a Resource Guide for Jewish Federations of North America's 2010 General Assembly in New Orleans. Session by session, we provide interesting and relevant links to BJPA resources. For example:

GA Resources

If you're headed there, or even if not, we hope you'll find it useful. Best wishes for a fruitful, productive, and enriching gathering!

New Moving Traditions Report on Keeping Jewish Boys Involved

(Cross posted to the Lilith Blog, which is also sharing a section of their Fall 2009 issue, Boys are the New Girls, for free).

The role of men and boys in American Jewish life is a topic of growing concern - current research on boys available on BJPA ranges from Wishing For More: Jewish Boyhood, Identity and Community to  "Bros" and "Ho's" in Jewish Life Today.

Monday night, Moving Traditions, the organization that gave us the "Rosh Hodesh - It's a Girl Thing" program, unveiled a new program geared at teenage Jewish boys - along with a substantive report on Jewish American boys' participation in American Judaism. 

We are living in exciting times. There is no historical precedent for the problem of the disenfranchisement of boys in the religion of "Shelo asani isha" (the blessing traditionally recited by Jewish men, thanking God for not making them women). Certainly there is no shortage of men at the tops of Jewish structures, as the ongoing work of organizations like Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community continues to document. But what does that avail us if we are bleeding boys from the bottom?

Moving Traditions found that at every year of post bnai mitzvah Jewish involvement, boys' participation lags behind that of girls. Through focus groups and pilot testing, they came up with a program that has proven, in their experience so far, successful at engaging Jewish boys and keeping them engaged. Somewhat like the Rosh Hodesh program, it reaches back to an area of Jewish life that was traditionally the province of its target audience: the boys participating in the pilot testing named themselves "The Brotherhood."

Single sex programming is meant to invite Jewish boys to integrate core pieces of their identity - masculinity and Judaism, precisely at the time in their lives that they are most actively involved with figuring out who they are, and can and want to be. The idea is not to perpetuate any ways in which Jewish communities have defined and nurtured male identities in opposition to and over female identities. The hope is that by involving boys in an active process of engagement with their Jewish gender identities, they will become a generation of men that can join Jewish women in the shared project of building thriving Jewish communities that can affirm individual identities and honor difference. 

The report includes sample activities as well as a marketing guide, and Moving Tradition's commitment to help organizations bring the program to Jewish teenage boys in their communities. One major challenge is the stark shortage of male Jewish educators and role models.

Participants in the unveiling program also asked questions about the distinctiveness of American, as opposed to Israeli, male Jewish identity, and the challenge of nurturing masculinity without perpetuating things like heteronormativity - one sample activity asks boys to arrange themselves on an agree/disagree spectrum to statements that "It's a "guy" thing to..." for example, "pay for a date." 

Repairing the world since 1989 & BJPA's kabbalistic aspect

Can you remember a time before Tikkun Olam?

In Yehudah Mirsky's new paper, Peoplehood - Think and Strong: Rethinking Israel-Diaspora Relations for a New Century, among JPPI's policy recommendations to the government of Israel, he mentions Tikkun Olam as an anchor around which a common Diaspora-Israel Jewish identity and practice could be maintained and thrive. It seems to take for granted the idea that this concept, this formulation of the concept, is a widely held and deeply ingrained value.

On BJPA, this anchor of the Jewish people first appears in 1989. As far as its position in modern Jewish discourse, 'Tikkun Olam', as a term, has come a long way in a short time! The even more surprising thing is that it feels like a term that was never new at all.

Its first occurence in our archives is in Conflict or Cooperation? Papers on Jewish Unity, in Lawrence A. Hoffman's contribution "Jewish Unity and Jewish Peoplehood: A Reform Position". He says:

The survival of the Jewish people as an agent of tikkun olam requires that we work together regardless of differences on the many issues of moment that face us.

The next instance of its use feels like an even bolder taking for granted of this term's broad-based acceptance :

Our communal mission has remained the same since Sinai—a covenant fot Tikkun Olam, for repairing this imperfect world, for ensuring ajewish future—and only the formulation and configuration have changed. -The Future of the Profession: a Lay Leader's Candid View, Shoshana S. Cardin, 1989

Then all of a sudden it's all over the place. Starting in 1994, it appears in not fewer than three documents per year.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs published The History of "Tikkun Olam" in Zeek in 2007. She follows the term's roots back to the Aleynu prayer, probably composed in the 2nd century, and its waxing and waning in popularity until present times. She dates its first modern emergence to the 1950's, but notes that it really picked up steam in the '70s and '80s. Of the four understandings of Tikkun Olam that emerge from her historical survey, its modern incarnation draws the most from Lurianic thought.

The popularity of the term tikkun olam, and the general emphasis on its Lurianic, rather than rabbinic, roots may indicate a desire to place one’s own work in a larger context of influencing the greater world. In an individual’s search for the meaning of his or her own life, it may be more compelling to think of one’s every action as contributing to the repair of the cosmos, than to think of the same actions as simply accomplishing a small fix to a much larger problem.

And so it seems that, as usual, we get back to the Baby Boomers.

One Summer Camp in '65: A Theoretical and Practical Civil Rights Education

"Civil rights for African Americans were woven into Judaism in a seamless garment to be experienced and lived." -Jewish Summer Camping and Civil Rights: How Summer Camps Launched a Transformation in American Jewish Culture, 2009

Professor Riv-Ellen Prell's essay studies how denominational (primarily Reform and Conservative) Jewish summer camps aggressively included civil rights programming and education into their vision of American Judaism, and the camper experience in the 1950s and 60s, and how that emphasis eventually fell away. But its story is achingly relevant today.

The pivot point in the essay is a fascinating incident that took place at Camp Ramah Nyack's experimental "American Seminar"program in 1965. The coed program brought sixteen year-olds together for an intensive summer of traditional Jewish learning in the mornings and social action volunteering (largely in/with African American communities) in the afternoon.

Fairly late in the summer, a leader of the African American Jewish youth group, Hatzair Haatid, arranged for group members to spend a weekend visiting American Seminar and share community, learning, and praying, with its campers.  But the camp's leaders were unsure about the halachic Jewish status of the visiting group, and they consulted the Conservative movement's chief legal authority, Rabbi Moshe Zucker.

He ruled that any male in the group (this was prior to women gaining rights to participate equally in religious life in the movement) past the age of bar mitzva who was enrolled in a yeshiva or day school could receive an Aliyah. He reasoned that the educational institution would vouch for the "authenticity" of the young man's Judaism. This ruling was agreed upon by the camp director, Lukinsky and the Talmud professor, who served as the scholar-in-residence and the religious authority for the camp.

But on the morning in question, Rabbi Lukinsky could not bring himself to make the inquiries that would be required for enacting that policy: 

“In any other Jewish setting,” he asserted,” if a person presented himself as a Jew the inquiry would stop there. There was only one reason I asked the young men on a Shabbat morning if they attended a yeshiva and it was because they were Black.” He decided then and there simply to assign Aliyot to the guest campers.

Later that day, the rest of the camp learned that after the service, the Talmud teacher asked a group of young men to stay behind to repeat the entire Torah service, holding based on R. Zucker's ruling that the "the Aliyot taken by the Black Jews rendered it illegitimate."

That decision led to agitation and outrage, and culminated in the two camp leaders holding a public discussion on their positions and their decision making processes. One camper remembers:

I know now that our teacher followed his teacher Zucker, and that is what the halakhic system required. But we heard the rabbi say "I was just following orders.? We had all seen (the film) Judgment at Nuremberg that year and here he was saying that he should have followed orders. He heard it too and tried to explain ten to fifteen more times that this was a halakhic requirement.

(That Talmud professor was a Holocaust survivor whose Auschwitz tattoo campers saw every day).

That one incident called into question the premise of the summer - the possibility of the 'seamless' integration of progressive values and traditional Judaism. In Prof. Prell's interviews with the Rabbis and campers involved, decades later, the challenges and tensions of that day still sound fresh. Interestingly, the Talmud teacher is never named, a presumably voluntary anonymity implying that, in 2009, he preferred not to have his name publicly associated with the incident.

The often implicit tensions made explicit in this incident will, I'm sure, sound familiar to many who are involved in or implicated by topical Jewish struggles around questions of gender, sexuality, intermarriage, and pluralism. The question of the halachic status of African American Jewish communities like that which composed Hatzair Haatid, is, as far as I know, still not more resolved within the Conservative movement.

Eventually, Prof. Prell relates, "civil rights no longer served as medium for expressions of Jewish social justice," but

These campers were to create many revolutions in American Jewish life... Summer camps of the 1950s and 1960s proved to be a powerful testing ground for experimenting with new articulations of Jewish identity.

Are there revolutions fomenting in Jewish summer camps today? Or perhaps the testing grounds of Jewish identity are elsewhere? Or maybe we're still working out, at camp, online, in new and experimental schools and yeshivot, at Limmuds and Havurah Institutes, the struggles that our Boomer forebears cracked open ahead of us.

JData: Welcome aboard!

Today was the official launch of, a Brandeis Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and Jim Joseph Foundation  project designed to democratize the collection and distribution of data on Jewish educational institutions in the United States.

Schools, synagogues, community centers, and agencies set up profiles with any demographic and institutional data they choose to share. In return, they get access to the (anonymized) data of other institutions. For example, a part time school that has entered data about its student enrollment and funding can run a query that compares itself to other part time schools with a similar student body size. It can generate reports on comparison, and internal, data to share with its board or funders. Agencies and philanthropists can run searches to find out how the majority of children in their community are being served, in what size institutions, what class sizes, and so on. Parents can run searches for part time schools with resources for special needs students or social justice emphasis. Researchers can easily identify institutions and contact people for studies.

JData, like BJPA, is attempting to leverage modern technology to serve the needs of Jewish community leaders, scholars, and organizations. As a community, we love to study ourselves, and talk and read about ourselves - bookstores tend to have Judaica sections all out of proportion to the ratio of Jews in the larger population. And yet, basic information can be suprisingly hard to access. At the launch, Professor Leonard Saxe noted that almost a day doesn't go by when he doesn't get a query from a Jewish journalist about schools/enrollment, etc, in a particular area, and when he can answer, it's never without caveats about the accuracy of the data. We are just starting to set up infrastructure to collect, store, and make information accessible. And the investment is considerable - about 1.5M has been invested in the project so far.

The website is aesthetically and functionally very user friendly, but its usefulness depends on the choice of Jewish educational institutions to enter, update, and share their data. Confidentiality of data is a priority, but with restrictions, most of the data will be accessible to anybody, institutionally affiliated or not (a free registration is required). The hope is that institutions will find the site useful enough for their own internal purposes that they will keep their information accurate and up to date.

This new technological age is revolutionizing the possibilities access to information and data, and the potential impact on Jewish community and education work is, I think it's fair to say, incalculable. BJPA is glad and proud to be part of that movement alongside JData, and thankful for the visionary support of funders like our own, the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation and the Revson Foundation, as well as the Jim Joseph Foundation who are behind JData.

Jewish Farming School, Then and Now

I recently had the most wonderful visit to the Adamah program at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, connected to their Sukkahfest celebration. The whole thing was lovely and very impressive. Like many Jews, my background could hardly be less rural, and learning how to milk goats and pick vegetables was probably inordinately exciting.

Participants in the Adamah program spend three months learning and doing farming, environmentalism, sustainability, and Judaism. The program has been increasing in success and popularity and now the JTA reports on a new movement towards Urban Jewish farming - Jewish Farm School Movement Moves West:

Like the original Adamah, the Berkeley program will be a full immersion experience. But because it is situated in a city with a significant Jewish population, it also will serve as a Jewish educational center, playing host to visiting school groups and holiday festivities. Berman anticipates 10,000 annual farm visitors by the project’s third year...

A major criticism of the rural Jewish farm programs like the original Adamah, Passow says, is the lack of direct connection to social justice work. The new Berkeley project will give its young participants the agricultural training they desire while serving the local community -- “a great merger of those two pieces,” he said.

For me, one of the most interesting things about the 'Jewish Farm School Movement' is its history. Nowadays, Adamah fellows participate in a selective application process and pay a stipend for the privilege of participating in the program, but once upon a time, major Jewish organization were struggling with how to incentivize Jews to, for heaven's sake, move out of the cities and learn some farming skills.

On the occasion of the 4th National Conference of Jewish Charities, in 1907 , A.R. Levy admitted, "I am tempted to say that agriculture is the panacea for all the ills of the American ghetto." The idea was that the problems American Jewish poverty and the over-crowding of immigrants in cities like New York could be solved by a movement of Jews (poor, immigrant, and orphan Jews, generally) to the land.

It wasn't only an economic question, either. In Agricultural Education for Jews in the United States, H.L. Sabsovich argued that that move was essential for Jews' full participation and acceptance in American civil society

For the general Jewish welfare we must certainly have a farming population, as we will stand better with our neighbors when we are able to point out that the agricultural industries are taken up by us as a life vocation. From an economic standpoint, farming, as a new Jewish trade, is not only advisable, but is an absolute necessity. None of the present schools meet fully the Jewish needs. In order to enable the Americanized and the immigrant Jewish lads to take advantage of the educational facilities offered by the State colleges and secondary agricultural schools, preparatory Jewish agricultural schools should be established where they can learn that which the farmers' boys learn at home, namely, the farm operations and farm life.

(I doubt he could have begun to imagine Adamah  - which is definitely not limited to 'lads' - as it exists now, and I wonder what he would think!)

You can also read about one early precursor to Adamah - a joint project of the Industrial Removal Office and the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society - which brought "five settlers, with their wives and twenty-three children" to Arpin, Wisconsin, and set them up with homes and cows. At least according to A.W. Rich, author of the report, founder of the town of Arpin, and major player behind the project, it was ambling along very smoothly - despite the fact that three of the original settlers had to be removed because they started "becoming a disturbing element of the community after having been denied certain extravagant requests." (Requests for what??) You can read more about that project on the Arpin (current population 337) Wikipedia page.

The current Jewish farming movement has interesting continuities (Jewish continuity and prosperity concerns, the role of Jews in the broader social enviornment) and discontinuities (the new focus on environmentalism, an orientation towards the more elite and educated segments of the Jewish community) and I for one look forward to where we'll be in another hundred years.

In the mean time, one more discontinuity - blogging has come to Jewish farming. Check out the Adamah group blog for updates directly from the field. 

If you want to try out Jewish farming for yourself, maybe you can make it to one of the no-fee Adamah-run farm visit days - the Colors of Autum Farm Visit will be Sunday October 17th.

Invitation/Reminder: Wednesday Webinar on Middle East Peace Negotiations

Professor David Makovsky will discuss "Middle East Peace Negotiations: Is There A Chance For Success?" on Wednesday at 12pm Eastern Time.

David Makovsky is the Ziegler distinguished fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process. He is also an adjunct lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He is the co-author with Dennis Ross of the recently released book, Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction in the Middle East (Viking/Penguin), as well as many other publications.

Click here to RSVP or for more information.

6,000 Documents!

The 1948 volume of the Jewish Social Service Quarterly put us over the top! If you're interested in the post-war Jewish community's responses to European child refugees, social services and care for children living in Europe, American Jewish juvenile delinquents or the contemporary take on Old Age Homes (and more), take a look. Or browse through all our recent additions.

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