Think Tank

Post Your Perspectives about the Jewish Future

Tying into the Reform Think Tank (an 18-month collaboration among the URJ, CCAR, and HUC-JIR), Reform Judaism magazine’s editors invite you to reflect upon what we need to do to strengthen the Jewish future in North America.

Answer as many of the 12 questions below (and posed in the Summer/June 2011 edition) as you wish. Some of the questions may make reference to the Summer magazine articles, but it is not necessary to have read the articles to give us your input on the “Big” questions of our time.

Also, read other perspectives on these questions, including those of former North American Federation of Temple Youth president Aliza Gazek.

Your input fuels the Think Tank’s success. As Gazek writes in Reform Judaism magazine: “Please add your voice. Your story and your responses are pieces of the mosaic of North American Reform Jewry. All of our perspectives are key as we shape our community’s future together.”

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NOTE: Answer as many questions as you wish, from 1 to 12. As you respond, keep in mind that your answer to a given question will be read in conjunction with other people's answers to that same question, rather than all of your answers read together. Scroll to the bottom to submit. Also, please make sure to save answers on your computer before submitting them. If you experience any technical difficulties, email both rjmagazine@urj.org and web@urj.org.

If the “elements that bind [the different Jewish movements] are more powerful than those which divide us,” how might Jews of different denominations work together to strengthen Jewish life in North America?

Would breaking down barriers between the different Jewish movements be a positive development in the evolution of Judaism in North America? If yes, what might the breakdown of further barriers require? If no, why not?

Rabbi Ellenson says that “we have come closer to Isaac Mayer Wise’s dream of an American Judaism” than ever before. Do you think we should reenvision our Movement’s scope—and its name—to encompass the majority of liberal Jewry in North America? If yes, what would you call this Movement? If no, why not?

Do you agree that “to infuse Jews with a sense of belonging, our Movement will have to develop a more flexible type of community that meets Jews wherever they happen to gather”? If so, how can this kind of outreach best be accomplished?

Rabbi Englander says that “Jews are seeking out the Jewish community to fulfill current needs…rather than regarding synagogue membership as a lifetime commitment.” Do you agree? If yes, what needs to happen to make affiliation more compelling?

Rabbi Englander counsels that the survival of Reform Judaism in a society “in which the only constant is change [requires] creating a community that stands for something timeless.” Do you agree? If so, what do we stand for that will resonate today and endure?

Do you agree that “the supreme challenge” facing the Reform Movement today is “the changing attitude toward affiliation and membership…that people are less committed to organizations of any kind”? If you agree, how do we tackle this problem? If you disagree, what do you think is the “supreme challenge” and what needs to be done to address it?
Do you agree that one of the best ways to make Reform synagogues and the Reform Movement less vulnerable to economic downturns is to stop depending on membership dues and religious school fees? What are the best alternatives?
Are you optimistic that the Reform Movement in North America can adapt to “the new realities” (e.g. financial, demographic, aversion to affiliation) because “we always have” in the past? Explain.
How can the Reform Movement, which is rooted on the idea of personal autonomy, resonate with all of its members when it incorporates so many diverse theological perspectives and religious practices?
Do congregational rabbis have too many “new and increasingly complex responsibilities to juggle”? What should their major roles be to assure the Jewish future?
The CCAR is “partnering with the URJ and HUC-JIR in forging a vision of what our Movement might look like in 20, 30, or even 50 years from now.” What vision do you have for shaping our Movement’s future, 20, 30, or 50 years from today?

Union for Reform Judaism.