4 Things To Do About Pew Survey Findings on #JewishAmerica

We Have Power To Reshape the Jewish Future


By Jerry Silverman and Michael Siegal

Published October 24, 2013, issue of November 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The Pew Research Center’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans” has triggered much debate in the Jewish community. Its key findings — that younger Jews are not only less connected to, but are also less interested in, Jewish life — puts in sharp relief the challenge before us. If we go by numbers alone, the non-Orthodox American Jewish community is facing an existential crisis. The study clearly demonstrates that we stand at an urgent crossroads for American Jewry, and presents us with a major opportunity. Our communal leadership must seize upon it with renewed vigor and focus.

Pew Survey! Click Here! Click for more on the survey.

It is time to intensify — and make affordable — the most effective vehicles for engaging people in Jewish life. Our vast communal system has the capacity to address these issues by leveraging proven, effective programs that create Jewish community, and devising new models that sustain Jewish American life. We recognize the awesome task this presents, and we are ready to meet this challenge, but we must do this together. Inclusion of the broad diversity of Jews in America — Orthodox and non-Orthodox, Russians and Israelis, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, et cetera — is essential to our success.

With an abundance of expertise and resources in several areas, we could certainly continue to debate where to focus our energies and dollars in the short term. However, we must act now, and we need to start where we have already seen extraordinarily powerful results for the widest profile of Jews. Here are four examples of where we can begin:

Free Early Childhood Programs

Many communities have demonstrated the power of engaging families through superb Jewish preschool and day care programs and the innovative PJ Library program, which delivers 100,000 Jewish children’s books to families across the country. We must go farther. We must commit to offering free Jewish preschool to every Jewish family, a “Jewish Head Start.” This will dramatically widen the pipeline of families entering Jewish life through this critical early gateway. And it will place many more people on a path to further Jewish connection and Jewish education — day school, religious school and informal and alternative Jewish education.

Jewish Camping

Do we really need another study saying overnight camp is one of the most successful ways to connect young Jews? Camp not only engages the child; it engages the entire family. Research shows that most non-Orthodox, engaged participants in Jewish community were inspired by one of three things: Jewish camp, day school or youth trips to Israel. Let’s address one of them right away.

We need to quickly and decisively increase the percentage of children attending Jewish camps from 10% to 30%. We need more camps of excellence with greater capacity. The best Jewish camps today are turning away Jewish families.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.