The decision by the Jewish Federations of North America to move its annual meeting from Disney World to a city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina is welcome. So is the Federations’ new priority of broadening the talent pool of potential leaders, given the growing gender gap in Jewish communal life,
Sadly, in America, too few Jews appreciate how essential that key is to communal survival. Hebrew literacy rates are abysmally low. The 2007 National Survey of American Jews found that only 28% claim to understand a simple Hebrew sentence. There is a generational uptick — younger Jews are more likely to understand that sentence than their grandparents. But that is mostly due to the growth of day school enrollment, and that is mostly concentrated in Orthodox communities.
For American Jews who give generously to charity, there is often an inner struggle: How much should they support other Jews, and how much should they give to causes in the wider world? The response to the tragedy befalling Haiti demonstrates the wisdom of turning that binary dilemma from an “either/or” question to a “both/and” affirmation.
Frustration over the use of the filibuster is as old as the filibuster itself. Tempting though it is to smooth the way toward adopting a Democratic legislative agenda, the filibuster acts as a useful bulwark against the tyranny of the majority. It shouldn’t be scrapped. It should be reformed.
The fourth annual Schmooze conference took place at the hip City Winery in Lower Manhattan on January 11 and 12, bringing together Jewish artists and presenters to debate, discuss and, well, schmooze. There was talk of a “sea change” this year, and not just because of the financial meltdown or the growing popularity of Fox News.