In October 2007, I was invited to the third Professional Leaders Project ThinkTank. The conference took place in Santa Monica, Calif., where, as I recall, close to 200 young Jews were received warmly at a top-flight hotel with beautiful sushi spreads and told that we were the future leaders of American Jewry.
Much like the events that led up to Hanukkah more than 2,000 years ago, a new empire has arisen in our time, stamping the known world with its particular brand of world-encompassing universal philosophy. Unlike the Greeks and the Hellenistic age, America’s brand of humanist universalism is truly a global phenomenon — spreading through nongovernmental organizations to the deepest reaches of the East, and through McDonald’s and Starbucks to create consumers in the farthest regions of the South.
Upon entering this year’s General Assembly of United Jewish Communities in Los Angeles, one is immediately greeted by colorful pictures of young Jews hugging beside the slogan of this year’s gathering, “One People, One Destiny.” The slogan reflects both the G.A.’s focus on the aftermath of Israel’s war with Hezbollah as well as widespread concern following studies reporting that there is a marked decrease in the younger generation’s identification with Jewish peoplehood.