Blog #1: First Blog
American Jewish Archives, HUC CN
Forget the Numbers
Someone asked me the other day what I thought of the future state of American Jewry. It's actually a question that I think about a lot. If that's a question that keeps you up at night or one that you might ponder on your subway ride home, then rabbinical school might be the right place for you. Studying Jewish text and practicing Judaism is very meaningful. What really drives me, however, is wondering, imagining and caring about the future of the Jewish people.
If you evaluate institutional Reform Judaism by many traditional quantitative measures -- the numbers of unaffiliated Jews, the percentage of giving rates, the rate of synagogue attendance -- the results might seem a bit discouraging. You know the joke of the Jewish telegram, "Begin worrying, details to follow." Seriously, though, we know that numbers are important. This is why, we learn not only how to navigate a page of Talmud, but also how to walk our way through a balance sheet and measure trends.
Fortunately, however, the numbers are not the only way to evaluate the future of institutional Reform Judaism. Another way to sense the health and vitality of an institution is to assess its future leaders. Before attending rabbinical school, I worked for several years as a consultant. You might think that as a consultant, I loved looking at the numbers - how many consultants does it take to change the light bulb? It depends on your budget.
I came to realize that the ultimate resource of any company was not in the numbers, but in their people. Time and again, I heard business leaders who believed that their best return came from their investment in people. When I look around at HUC, I see that same investment in our future leaders. I have hope in the future of Reform Jewish because of the passion, the vision and the dedication of the people here.
The faculty members are not just brilliant scholars and role models; they care about us and are engaged with our lives. I remember one professor who had us over for dinner. He served beer. We like beer. You get the point.
The administrators dedicate their lives to creating a campus that is both welcoming and rigorous. They help us to navigate the bureaucracy of the college. They also help us to discover opportunities to grow away from HUC. Last year, there was an opportunity to lead Passover for a congregation in Puerto Rico. Not too shabby!
The students, my friends and colleagues, maintain a collective determination and propensity to seek change. In many ways, the students are actually excited to hear that our profession and our institutions are undergoing extraordinary transformation. We like that it's a time ripe for new ideas and for the call of hope and sacred meaning.
If you want to be a part of future leadership of Judaism, I invite you to look beyond the numbers. Instead, look at our future leaders. Chances are that many of them are right here, at the Hebrew Union College.
Posted by Ari at 1:52 PM