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At least I don’t take Bryfman to be claiming that there is zero benefit resulting from free books and CDs to Jewish kids or Birthright trips. If there is some nonzero value to the community that arises from these programs, we still have reason to prefer them as long there aren’t other ways of preserving Jewish continuity that are more effective or more efficient. Are there any? Maybe, but I find it hard to believe that the model of Jewish life that dominated over the last forty years (outside of Orthodox circles, which frequently used significant subsidization models) is the paragon of effectiveness.
So, if Bryfman wants us merely to “pause” before we embrace “free,” fine. Everything we do as a community should be mindfully done. But the arguments and evidence for “reset” based on the putative downsides and dangers of “free” seem quite speculative and not particularly persuasive.
Dan Markel is D’Alemberte Professor of Law at Florida State University’s College of Law.