From Birmingham To Europe, Young Jews Charting Own Course
By Richard Friedman,
BJF Executive Director
The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) receives significant funding from the Birmingham Jewish Federation to support the many activities it does throughout the world.
Often times these activities are imaginative and cutting edge as a recent story in Jewish Telegraphic Agency illustrated. It was about an initiative that brought young European Jews together to learn more about their Jewish priorities and help them chart their Jewish future. The gathering was in Berlin and involved 160 Jewish adults, ages 25-40, both religious and secular.
The paragraph that captured the essence of the story was this one: “The upbeat, weekend-long event did not focus on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust or Israel, and thus the gathering reflected a shifting approach to Jewish continuity in Europe, 72 years after the end of World War II.”
Added the story: “Under the theme ‘Our World in Transition,’ participants in Junction Annual — a three-year-old program of the Joint Distribution Committee — opened up a Pandora’s box of challenges young Jews in Western countries face: personal, professional and religious.”
JDC’s approach was to encourage these young Jews to continue charting their own course when it comes to Jewish living and saw itself as a catalyst to help them do so. “This is Generation 3.0, the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors or of those who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, and they are now finding their voices,” explained the story.
What struck me about this initiative is that it’s exactly the same course that we at the Birmingham Jewish Federation have followed these last five years — to give staff members and volunteer leaders in this age group as much opportunity as possible to develop their own collective agenda.
The results have made our Federation better. We are more open and welcoming, have increased the number of donors and giving levels in this age group, have widened our volunteer circle and have given staff members in this age group much room to grow.
Jewish living, while rooted in certain historic experiences, rituals and theologies, continues to evolve in an exciting and dynamic way. This is part of what keeps our people alive and vibrant as the remarkable saga of the Jewish people continues across the centuries. This also is what keeps decades-old organizations, such as the Joint Distribution Committee and Birmingham Jewish Federation, fresh and relevant and a gathering place for the leaders of tomorrow.