Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Daniel Elazar Papers Index

Jewish Community Studies

The Emergence of a Continental Jewish Community:
Implications for Federations

Daniel J. Elazar

Since the founding of the first federation in Boston nearly a century ago, the federation movement has demonstrated its ability to reflect the emergent character of American Jewry and to successfully adapt to the changing American scene. The idea of federated giving in the local community was itself a major step forward toward building framing institutions for American Jewry. Subsequently the development of the idea of federated service agencies took the American Jewish community another step forward, to be followed by the creation of countrywide service agencies for local federations, with the Council of Jewish Federations first and foremost among them. With the rise of Nazism and the coming of World War II the federations took another step forward to integrate fundraising for Israel, overseas needs and local needs. Then, after World War II, the federation movement took another step forward to adapt to the demands of what had become the largest and most powerful Jewish community in the world by adding community planning to its responsibilities, thereby truly becoming the framing institutions of American Jewry.

The Challenge of a New Frontier

Now the federation movement is faced with yet another challenge which will require an even greater adaptation, a challenge which grows out of the changes taking place in American society as a whole and American Jewish life in particular in the second generation of the post-modern epoch.

The federation movement was born at the very end of the modern epoch as a response to the problem of creating a united, cohesive Jewish community on a voluntary basis in a free society. The modern epoch came to an end with World War II, the Holocaust and the reestablishment of the State of Israel. The federation movement already in place was able to rise magnificently to the first challenges of the post-modern epoch.

For America as a whole, the post-war generation was marked by the metropolitanization of society, the dropping of the last barriers to full participation by Jews and other minorities, American assumption of responsibility as leader of the free world - all these factors provided great opportunities for American Jewry, both individually and collectively. Metropolitanization and the new technologies and industries that grew up to serve the metropolitan society offered great opportunities for Jews, among others, to prosper, often to prosper mightily, establishing a new resource base for the federations to tap. The new openness of American society enabled Jews to rise to the highest positions within it and to become, in terms of general education, the best educated Jewish community in history. This, too, redounded to the benefit of organized Jewish life, producing a more sophisticated leadership, voluntary and professional, for Jewish institutions and a greatly expanded Jewish influence in American politics, culture and society. Finally Americans' new world responsibilities made it easier for American Jewry to support Israel in all the ways that it has.

Metropolitanization in North America was a continuation of the great American frontier experience. but the metropolitan frontier, like all frontiers, has come and gone. The Jews along with other third wave immigration groups migrated up to what political analyst Samuel Lubbell referred to as "the old tenement trail" to the suburbs, established their institutions and what they thought would be their new world, only to see their children move on to yet newer frontiers. Moreover the character of the metropolitan frontier was such that often they themselves had to move on, either because they were pushed as the result of changing neighborhoods or because they were pulled to even better or more attractive locations.

For all intents and purposes, the metropolitan frontier ended in the mid-1970s along with the end of the first post-war generation. By now we are 10 years into the second generation of the post-modern epoch. We are also well into the opening stages of a new frontier, one which is no longer characterized by metropolitanization, that is to say, the development of a suburban and even exurban periphery around a core city which has become megalopolitan, based on settlement patterns that involve continuous belts of cities and rurban (mixed rural and urban) areas strong out for hundreds of miles, with no central core. This new rurban frontier is a product of the cybernetic revolution. It is linked by computer-based technologies and telecommunications and energized by cybernetically-based or related industries that a few years ago did not even exist.

For Jewish communities and their federations this is a wrenching change. The first federations were founded in the days when urbanization was in full swing in the United States, when America was enmeshed in the urban-industrial frontier (that followed the original rural land frontier and preceded the metropolitan- technological frontier). It is not surprising then, that Jews settled in the hearts of the major American cities. The larger the city, the larger the Jewish population. Jewish institutions that we know today were all formed in those great urban concentrations, particularly in New York, the greatest of them all. There is where opportunity lay, where newcomers could find a place at the end of the nineteenth century and where Jews could be close to one another.

While metropolitanization broke up those concentrations and led to the disappearance of the Jewish street in favor of the Jewish suburb, the overall pattern continued. The Jewish suburb was still closely attached to the great central cities of North America. The lives and fortunes of Jews were still tied to the big city at the center and federations and other Jewish organizations were simply able to expand their perimeters to take in the suburbs around the central city that seemed at first to be merely extensions of the city itself.

All this is being disrupted by the rurban-cybernetic frontier. America's great cities, for a century the centers of American life, are becoming increasingly peripheral. They were never quite as important as they seemed to their residents, particularly the Jews who had so little contact with the countryside. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an urban place in the United States is one with 2,500 people or more living at a certain density. Even by that definition it was not until 1890 that a third of all Americans lived in urban places and not until 1920 that the figure reached half. While by 1980 that figure approached 75 percent, it is misleading since the Census Bureau is still talking about places of 2,500 people or more as urban.

If we look at large cities, those of over 250,000 population, they reached their peak as a percentage of the population of the United States in 1930 with 33.5 percent or approximately one-third of the total. By 1980 they had dropped to 19.9 percent or under one-fifth. The situation is even more clouded with regard to the importance of the great urban centers. Cities of over a million peaked at 12.3 percent of the total U.S. population in 1930. By 1980 they represented 7.7 percent and falling. Those are the cities which in their heyday contained approximately half of the Jewish population in the United States.

Moreover, the rurban-cybernetic frontier is a frontier of small cities. In 1950 only 10.1 percent of Americans lived in cities of under 10,000 and only 23.8 percent in cities under 50,000. By 1980, 39.6 percent of Americans lived in cities of under 50,000; 17.1 percent of them in cities of less than 10,000. Those who live in rural areas now constitute 23.3 percent of the total American population, less than 5 percent of whom are farmers. Hence a whopping 62.9 percent of all Americans are located outside of even medium-size cities.

Some might argue that taking big cities independently of their metropolitan areas distorts the situation. According to the Census Bureau, in 1900 less than one-third of all Americans lived in metropolitan areas. By 1950 a majority of all Americans were located in metropolitan areas. The percentage would exceed two-thirds sometime in the 1960s and peak at 68.6 percent in 1970. By 1980 a reversal had taken place with more growth in non-metropolitan than in metropolitan areas. Here, too, there is a definitional problem. The Census Bureau has changed the definition of what constitutes a metropolitan area several times, each time expanding the coverage. Thus at one time any county with a central city of at least 50,000 in population and a certain percentage of commuters outside the municipal boundaries was considered metropolitan. Today any country of 100,000 population, even if it has no city within it, is defined as metropolitan. At no point did central cities represent more than a third of the population of the United States. In 1960, at the heyday of suburbanization, 31.9 percent of the American population lived in cities, 30.3 percent in suburbs, and 37.8 were non-metropolitan. By 1970, the percentage in cities had dropped to 30.6, non-metropolitan had dropped to 32.9, and suburbs were up to 36.5.

Even at the peak of metropolitanization, at least one third of Americans lived in rural areas or urban areas outside of these broadly defined metropolitan regions. In fact, these definitions a sheepherder in San Bernadino County is a resident of a metropolitan area and Joplin, Missouri is the center of one. If we take as a true metropolitan area one with a center city or cities with at least 500,000 people and a total population of at least a million, at the highest point the large metropolitan population never reached 50 percent of the U.S. total. It is now dropping toward 45 percent. Not only that, of the 35 metropolitan areas of over a million population in 1980, 8 actually lost population in absolute terms. They include such important Jewish communities as New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburg, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Buffalo. Moreover, outside of the sunbelt, every major city over 200,000 population except Columbus, Ohio lost population between 1970 and 1980.

By 1980 even the definition of a metropolitan statistical area reflected the emerging rurban frontier. All but two of the metropolitan areas of over 2 million officially had more than one central city, with the larger ones having three or more and the largest and smallest having no real central cities at all.

The point of all this is that the old urban-metropolitan pattern which has served as the geodemographic basis for Jewish communal organization since the beginning of Jewish life in the United States is no longer viable. Jews are in the lead in the move onto the rurban-cybernetic frontier, including movement within various megalopolitan regions in the United States -- the great citybelts along the northeastern coast from Maine to Virginia, the Florida east and west coasts, the Gulf Coast, southern California, the Bay Area - Sacramento Basin, etc. The true impact of this on Jewish population mobility is not known to us since it is precisely in those smaller communities that are receiving Jewish population that local population studies are few and far between. However we can see the trend by looking at the results of the studies of the larger sunbelt communities. Where such studies have been undertaken, they have in every case produced unexpectedly higher numbers of Jews than estimated or expected. We do know that, whereas a generation ago 84 percent of all Jews lived in the northeast, today only 56 percent do.

One other aspect of the migration to the South and West that is cause is for concern is that Jews moving to the Sun Belt are for the most part moving from areas with a strong culture of giving and communal responsibility to areas notably lax in both respects. Hence they will find no tradition of involvement or giving in their new communities. If we are fortunate, there will be enough migrants to change the cultural pattern by virtue of their presence before they discover local norms, but chances are that until such a critical mass is present, local norms will prevail and may indeed erode the more desirable habits of other places. This seems to be what has happened up to now. Only a massive organizational effort spearheaded by CJF is likely to bring those communities up to expectations. This may involve lending key campaign and community organizing personnel to those communities, providing seed money to enable them to strengthen their organizational capacity, or whatever, but it will have to be done somehow.

The point I wish to make is that the transformation of the environment within which the American Jewish community and its federations must function is far more complex than the conventional wisdom suggests. It is far more than a migration from suburbs to exurbs, problematic as that is for the maintenance of Jewish institutions and provision of Jewish services. It is far more complex than migration from the northeast to the south and west, with all of the problems that brings in terms of keeping track of Jews and keeping them affiliated.

Responding to the Redistribution of Governmental Power

One of the consequences of the newest frontier is a shift in the orientation of American domestic affairs from the federal government and the cities to the states. It has already been noted that the big cities reached their demographic peak in the United States in the 1930s. They reached the peak of their political power in Washington a generation later, in the 1960s. This almost exactly parallels the situation of the American farmer. Demographically the farm population reached its peak in the 1890s while politically the farmers reached the peak of their power in Washington at the time of the New Deal. Both cases reflect the generation lag between demographic realities and the ability to translate those realities into maximum political power in the national arena.

The power of the cities in the 1960s at the time of the Great Society may have deluded many people into thinking that the alliance between Washington and the cities represented the future of American government and politics. Since Ronald Reagan's assumption of the office of President in 1981 we have learned differently. Reagan articulated and accelerated the shift of power, responsibility, and initiative from Washington to the states, but actually it began earlier at the time of Watergate when a paralyzed federal administration could not respond properly to the oil crisis and the shortages it brought in its wake, the truckers' strike, and then the absorption of refugees from Southeast Asia. In all three cases, the governors stepped in to deal with the problem and did so effectively. In doing so, they rediscovered that the states are polities and not merely middle managers, and that governors have both the authority and the power to initiate and act.

By the mid-1970s, the American people had lost confidence in Washington as a result of Watergate and the failures of the Great Society. Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was elected to the presidency precisely because he was an outsider who seemed to offer the promise of doing something about Washington's overbearing behavior. His lack of success did not change public perceptions. On the contrary, the people then choose Reagan who articulated this anti-Washington stance even more comprehensively, reviving the concept of state authority and powers long unheard of outside of academic circles and then proceeding to do what he could to dismantle federal domestic programs. While the federal government continues to be very active, even on the domestic front, and will continue to be, by now it is clear to virtually all observers of the American system that the initiative for domestic action has passed to the states, most of whom have chosen to exercise it. This is particularly important today when federations are acquiring substantial funds from government sources for the health, welfare and social services which they and their agencies provide.

This shift is also new for the Jewish community. Since the American Jews of Eastern European background have come to the fore in the American Jewish community, they have looked to Washington as they have looked to the cities, and generally have ignored the states and state government. Now that will no longer do. Some federations have already begun to respond to this new situation. The federations of Illinois, led by the Chicago Federation, have established an office in Springfield, the capital of Illinois, and the New York Federation has long maintained relations with Albany. These kinds of relationships will become even more important in the next decade as they are strengthened by the changes in settlement patterns brought about by the rurban-cybernetic frontier.

Becoming Fully Part of World Jewry

A third new development in the United States affecting its Jewish community is America's new integration into the world economy. Part of the transformation of the United States in the second postwar generation has been its transformation from the greatest economic power in the free world to a beleaguered economy dependent more than ever before on outside sources of energy and other natural resources, the world's largest debtor nation, dependent on infusions of foreign capital to keep its government and industry working and increasingly dependent on others for basic manufactured goods as it has priced itself out of the market. We all know the story. It is in the headlines every day. What this means is that the United States, which assumed world leadership after World War II under conditions whereby it gave to the world and managed the world's economic affairs from Washington, is now dependent upon that selfsame world for its own economic survival and prosperity. In the first postwar generation, while Americans were no longer isolated from the world, they could choose when and where to be involved and when and where not to be. In the second postwar generation much of that choice has been taken away.

This is increasingly true for American Jews as well. At the beginning of the first postwar generation in 1948 the American Jewish community comprised at least half of all of world Jewry and was the world's most settled Jewish community. Today American Jewry has dropped to about 40 percent of world Jewry and with the exception of Jews in the Communist bloc, all the other Jewish communities of significance are also settled.

The changing demographic ratio between American Jewry and Israel is most instructive. In 1948 there were almost ten American Jews for every Jew in Israel. By 1960 that ratio had dropped to three to one. Today it is approximately 1.7 to 1. If the moderate forecasts of the demographers are correct and American Jewry starts losing numbers through assimilation through the remainder of this generation, while Israeli Jewry continues to grow because it is the only Jewish community of significance in the world with a positive birthrate, some time before the year 2010 Israel will pass the United States and become the largest Jewish community in the world. Since Israel will acquire that status through the decline of American Jewry, it is not something to be hoped for but it is very possible.

This means that American Jewry, which until now has gone its own way in developing an indigenous Jewish life, functioning on the world arena only to provide relief or other assistance for their Jewish brethren in difficulty "overseas," now must become intimately involved in the give and take of world Jewry. The growth of federation interest in the governance of the Jewish Agency reflects this change. Up to now that interest has been essentially manifested through an effort to impose American forms of organization and standards of operation on the Agency, but undoubtedly it will become a matter of give and take as American Jews discover that they and Israel are not alone in the world and that even with regard to Israel they can no longer claim the status of senior partner. This involvement is all to the good since it is the first major step towards shaping common institutions for world Jewry in which all segments of the Jewish world play a significant role.

On another related issue, American Jews have responded to the "Who is a Jew?" issue from a strictly American perspective until now. That is, based on the American pattern whereby 75-80 percent of all Jews identify religiously, all but 10 percent of them with non-Orthodox religious movements. Now American Jews are beginning to confront the reality of the rest of the world where, on one hand, fully one third of all Jews may not identify religiously at all while a significant majority of those who do are either Orthodox or identify with Orthodoxy as the only legitimate form of Jewish religious expression. Based on the demographic studies, our Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has estimated that 37 percent of world Jewry identifies as Orthodox, 30 percent identify with non-Orthodox religious movements, and the remainder do not identify religiously at all.

This can and perhaps should lead in two directions: On one hand, American Jews must develop a strategy that takes into account that among the Jews of the world today Orthodoxy has more adherents than any other stream. On the other, American non-Orthodox movements may choose to make a more substantial effort to reach out to Jews in other countries. The Reform movement is already active in this regard and the Conservative movement shows signs of becoming active, particularly in Latin America and Israel.

For the moment, in countries outside of the United States even those Jews who are not really Orthodox see Orthodoxy as the only authentic form of Judaism, but this could change within the next generation. In Latin America, for example, one man, a Conservative rabbi, single-handedly established a strong Conservative movement in Argentina that is now spreading throughout the South American continent because conditions were ripe for a religious revival on non-Orthodox terms. Potentially similar developments could take place elsewhere. Whatever happens it is clear that American Jewish religious patterns can no longer survive in isolation any more than American Jewry can. Either they will become worldwide or they are likely to whither even in the United States, especially in the face of a resurgent and militant Orthodoxy which is in a demographically stronger position than any of the non-Orthodox movements.

This new American Jewish involvement in world Jewry has another very practical dimension for the federation movement. Whereas during the first postwar generation the non-American diaspora tended to turn to Israel almost exclusively for assistance in maintaining Jewish life, today increasingly those diaspora communities are turning to American Jewry as well. Even earlier when it came to funding, the Joint Distribution Committee played a major role in Europe, Asia and Africa. In Europe that role was enhanced by the efforts of the JDC to reconstruct European Jewry, drawing on the American Jewish experience in communal organization to do so wherever possible, but that was less because they were asked to do so by the Europeans than because they had the resources when no one else did. Where no such compulsion existed as in Latin America or in the English-speaking countries, American Jewry was much less involved than Israel.

Now diaspora communities have come to recognize that, as they settle in, the American Jewish experience becomes relevant for them and that American Jewry has experience and technical expertise of use to them. Moreover because American Jewry is also a diaspora community there often seems to be more of a common language than there is with Israel. Thus American Jewry is likely to be called upon for more assistance to other diaspora communities in the future, not so much in the way of funding as in ideas and organizational development -- what the federation movement refers to as community planning and organization. Canadian Jewry also has a special and distinctive role to play in all this. With 300,000 Jews, the Canadian Jewish community is the fifth or sixth largest in the world and the second or third strongest in the diaspora institutionally and spiritually stronger than the USSR, Britain and perhaps France as well. Linked institutionally and culturally as it is to American Jewry, on one hand, and to the rest of the diaspora, on the other, it has a significant bridging role to play.

This does not mean that Israel will be excluded. On the contrary, in Jewish education Israel's role is likely to increase since Israel has been able to establish institutions for teacher training and curriculum development that even American Jewry has not been able to develop. What it means is that the American Jewish community will have to cooperate with Israel not only in those countries requiring the relief and rescue efforts of the two but in those communities that are settled in the diaspora for the long haul.

Beyond that, the federation movement will have to consider how much Israeli involvement there should be in Jewish education in North America. Until now, at least in the United States, the rule has been that Israeli involvement should be minimal and peripheral, mostly linked to the Israel experience. With the potential expansion of the Jewish Agency's role in Jewish education, this policy will need to be reviewed.

Dealing With Shifting Sources of Interest, Involvement, and Resources

A fourth set of developments that must be taken into account are the shifting sources of interest, involvement, and resources among American Jews to be drawn on for Jewish communal life. The new American Jewish interest seems to be politics. It is no accident that AIPAC and the PACs are the fastest growing Jewish groups. In an age in which religious commitment is increasingly nominal for many people, the cosmopolitans in the Jewish community, that is to say those who are not simply satisfied with activities around the synagogue, find politics attractive. The new political activity reflects the full integration of Jews into American society. The involvement in politics is a good way to combine the idea that one is doing something for the Jewish people while at the same time gratifying personal desires to be involved and to have some influence in public affairs.

In the synagogues, on the other hand, involvement is also very personal but more in the way of seeking interpersonal social links, some kind of spiritual fulfillment, or at least peace of mind. Thus havurot have replaced the traditional synagogue organizations as vehicles of involvement with the sisterhoods and mens' clubs much diminished. Perhaps the only exception is singles' groups where synagogues fill a new and very deeply felt need.

In general there is a decline in involvement in traditional forms of Jewish organization in favor of periodic "happenings" which require little or no long-term commitment on the part of most participants while providing the emotional satisfaction of dramatic mass events. The American Jewish community has institutionalized these happenings, from the GA and "super- Sunday" to the annual CAGE conference. This has dual implications. On one hand it is a sign of Jewish organizational adaptation to new realities. On the other, the new realities have some worrisome implications for Jewish organizational continuity and existence.

The federation movement is less likely to be affected by this since the governance role of the federations enables them to capitalize on the new orientation of the "cosmopolitans." Similarly the synagogues have less to worry about because they still serve the localistic needs of Jews and no other institution has come along that can do that as well. It is the other organizations, the voluntary organizations that were the backbone of Jewish life outside of the synagogue during the previous two generations, that are suffering the most. Even so, the federations have had to make and will continue to have to make adaptations to this new reality.

American society has undergone another transition in the post-modern epoch, particularly in the last two decades. It has become a society resting on an ideology of hedonistic individualism. According to this ideology, every person is not only sovereign but should devote himself or herself to the pursuit of what is personally pleasurable.

Let us call the baby for what it is. This is a kind of neo-paganism. It is a direct assault on and repudiation of both the original American and Jewish worldviews which saw in such a "lifestyle," anarchy and blasphemy.

A hedonistic individualistic society is not one without religion. I call it neo-pagan precisely because it does have a religion, a religion based upon the idolization of "personal fulfillment," particularly in matters involving sexual expression and psychological self-satisfaction. Thus the religion of a hedonistic individualistic society is designed to be therapeutic for the individual, not to raise people toward higher goals; neglectful or opposed to norms of community, responsibility, obligation, and sacrifice upon which good societies rest. Others have commented on how American society has become the therapeutic society par excellence and how in keeping with paganism the expressions of sexuality have come to be at the center of human self-fulfillment. Moreover, whereas in paganism sexuality is connected with fertility, in neo-paganism fertility is not desirable and sexuality is divorced from it.

Historically American society has always been engaged in a struggle between those who saw Americans committed toward building a holy or good commonwealth, "a city upon a hill" in the words of John Winthrop and the Bible, and those who saw Americans committed to removing the shackles of civilization and restoring natural existence. This struggle between what John Winthrop and others referred to as "federal liberty" or the liberty to live according to God's covenant and "natural liberty" or anarchy. Until our times, however, the pursuit of natural liberty was restrained by religion, both traditional and civil. Thus we are the first generation to be confronted with the full impact of the revolution.

There are already signs that the revolution may have run its course. Just as the original "natural men" who were the first to reach the American West were ultimately restrained by a harsh environment, so too may environmental factors place real limits on the neo-pagan expression of natural liberty in our times, whether it is a restriction of drug use through death from overdosing or the restriction on sexual promiscuity as a result of AIDS. But for the moment hedonistic individualism seems to be alive and well.

It need hardly be said that there is no honest way to reconcile hedonistic individualism and Judaism. One cannot be authentically Jewish and pursue that neo-pagan course. Not that being Jewish is not pleasurable, but it is a pleasure based upon assuming responsibility whether one likes it or not, which places concerns other than immediate personal gratification at the top of one's list of priorities.

It is our argument that in the end the search for immediate gratification is doomed to fail as people go from thrill to thrill in a vain attempt to satisfy appetites that are by their very nature insatiable. That is, in the end, self-destructive, while true personal satisfaction comes from commitment to something larger than oneself, even at the price of self-restraint. But Jewish institutions, including federations, have a fight on their hands to compete to survive in a world of hedonistic individualism and Jewish morality must struggle with neo-paganism.

The Jewish community may also be undergoing a shift in its resource base. Earlier discussions that suggested that older sources of money in the Jewish community may not be available after the postwar entrepreneurial generation that accumulated them passes on, turned out to be quite wide of the mark since it seems that new generations of entrepreneurs are emerging all the time. Hence it may be necessary to reach out to people who have made their money in new fields of endeavor, but the basic approach will be generally the same.

The one exception will be that today more people want "hands on" involvement when they give money as well as when they are active themselves. Thus the whole idea of federated giving whereby people pool their resources and let others decide how they should be allocated is under some challenge. Federations will have to rethink how they can accommodate the desire for hands-on involvement with the important principles of federated giving and, even when hands-on involvement is recognized, to prevent the skewing of giving in the direction of passing fancies or enthusiasms.

On the other hand, for the first time in the history of the American Jewish community, federations are acquiring funds which do not need to be raised every year and which can be used at the discretion of the federation leadership. These are derived from the endowment funds which the federations are now accumulating. In some cases the annual income from these funds is significant enough to give the federation leadership a certain leverage that can be used independently of their givers' attitudes. There may even come a time when some federations gain more income from their trust funds than from contributions. This has happened in other communities in the past. There are both pluses and minuses in this situation. As endowment funds grow there will be issues to be faced in terms of the use of their proceeds relating to this issue.

We are also witnessing the emergence of large Jewish foundations with assets in the tens of millions of dollars. These are not the family funds of yesteryear which were essentially vehicles for passing through the contributions of the wealthy for charitable purposes, perhaps with small permanent set-asides. These are powerful new instruments for good or ill in the Jewish community that are already able to grant millions of dollars every year for Jewish purposes. These foundations have far more "free" money, that is to say, funds not previously committed to the ongoing support of specific agencies or programs, than any other Jewish community instrumentality.

The question is, will they be used wisely or according to the whims of their founders. To what extent will they compete with the federations in setting communal priorities or in other ways? We already have one clearcut example. The Wexner Leadership Foundation already may be spending more on leadership development than any other body in the organized American Jewish community and aims to spend more than all of them combined. It moved into this field at the initiative of Leslie Wexner and Herbert Friedman (the original initiator of the UJA leadership development program). Wexner endowed the foundation without any prior consultation with the Jewish communal establishment. The Wexner Leadership Foundation appears to be working with local federations in what it is doing, but that is by its choice.

One might respond that federated giving never was the sum total of Jewish communal giving, that there always were individuals pursuing their own priorities, that, for example, at one time Jewish hospitals had a much higher place on the list of communal priorities because individual Jews wanted to support them. But we were never talking of sums of this magnitude invested in permanent funds which will take on a life of their own.

These new foundations also have worldwide agendas and reflect the end of the isolation of North American Jewry. Moreover, as with other Jewish fundraising efforts they will find Israel very attractive. In this they are joined by new instrumentalities such as the New Israel Fund. In at least one case, one of the major new foundations has tied itself in with the New Israel Fund with regard to Israel projects. The New Israel Fund presents itself as offering more opportunities for targeting gifts and for "hands on" involvement in Israel. Since Israel is blessed or cursed with being the focal point for every Jew's vision of what he or she wants the world to be like and every Jew wants to rebuild Israel according to his or her vision, this is a serious change which the federations will have to confront.

Responding to Shifting Bases of Energy in the Jewish World

Finally, there are shifting bases of energy in the Jewish world. In the first postwar generation the two great sources of energy in the Jewish world were Israel's Labor camp, centered in the Labor Party and the kibbutzim, the establishment that dominated the Israeli polity, economy and society, and the American Jewish establishment, particularly as reflected in the federation movement and the non-Orthodox religious movements. Today, while those energy sources continue to function, at best they have become routinized and they may even be declining.

For a brief moment, at the end of the 1960s, a new source of energy appeared in the form of young Jewish radicals seeking to rejudaize the American Jewish community in contemporary ways. They made a significant contribution to energizing North American Jewish life in new ways. Within a decade they had spent themselves as a force and/or had become institutionalized.

For now, the only new source of energy seems to be in Orthodoxy and in ultra-Orthodoxy at that. While still a very small minority of the Jewish people, they represent the new institution builders and agenda setters, even if the agendas they set simply pose challenges to be attacked by others. This is true whether we are speaking of Gush Emunim, Habad, the yeshiva world, or Shas. It is reflected worldwide in the demographic situation. Among diaspora Jews the average number of children per family is approximately 1.7 or less than replacement rate. Among non-Orthodox Jews in Israel it stands at approximately 2.2, or just above replacement rate. On the other hand, modern Orthodox Jewish families in Israel have between 3-5 children and those in the diaspora slightly less, while ultra-Orthodox Jewish families the world over have between 8 and 10 children. From time immemorial, having children has been a good measure of a society's morale and expectations for the future, with fewer reflecting pessimism, malaise and social decay.

In the United States, for example, the surveys show that no more than 10 percent of American Jews define themselves as Orthodox, a figure that has stayed more or less constant for several decades. That is misleading since at one time most of those who defined themselves as Orthodox did so residually, that is to say, they were not Orthodox in observance but retained their affiliation with Orthodoxy out of nostalgia or fileopiety, while in their personal lives they were no different than the Jews who had joined non-Orthodox religious movements. Today, virtually all of those who define themselves as Orthodox are serious about it, are Orthodox in belief, observance and practice. Thus the number of authentically Orthodox has at least doubled, if not tripled, even if the overall percentage of Orthodox in the total Jewish community has not changed.

Moreover, in the last decade many Orthodox Jews have found that they can benefit from being involved in the larger Jewish community, thus ending an earlier pattern of Orthodox isolationism. Elsewhere I have noted how an alliance seems to be emerging between Orthodox Jewry and the federation movement in the United States, similar to the historic alliance between the Labor camp and the Religious Zionist parties in Israel, for reasons of mutual benefit. I have also calculated that, while Orthodox Jews remain only 10 percent of the total Jewish population, they now constitute about 30 percent of Jewish activists. This is because so many non-Orthodox Jews are simply not involved with Jewish life at all. This gives Orthodox Jewry an influence far beyond the raw percentages and the 30 percent seems to be climbing.

Institutionally the results of this are most visible in Jewish education. With the decline in Jewish birthrate, the changed situation in American society whereby public schools are ceasing to be considered a viable educational option for upper middle class families, a category that includes the vast majority of Jews, and the concomitant failure of supplementary Jewish education, enrollment in Jewish day schools has increased dramatically. Today, 25 percent of those who receive a Jewish education attend day school and most of those day schools were founded and are maintained under Orthodox auspices and teach Orthodox ideology and practice. While the Conservative and, more recently, Reform movements have made substantial strides in providing day school education, they still represent minor trends. Moreover, ultra-Orthodoxy is particularly strong in the day school movement. It can well be said that the Orthodox have a predominant position in serious Jewish education today. This is even more true in Canada where nominal Orthodoxy remains a real factor and the Conservative and Reform movements are considerably weaker than they are in the United States.

A second area where Orthodox energy is being felt is in Jewish communal service itself. Whereas as recently as a decade ago observant Jews were rarely found within the Jewish communal service, today they are a major, if not the major, source of recruitment. They bring with them a new spirit of Jewishness and a more comprehensive definition of what it means to be Jewish than in the past. At present, with some very important exceptions, most are still in junior and middle level positions in organized Jewish life, but the direction of the trend is clear. Whether or not other movements and ideologies can provide the same energizing sources is not at all clear at this moment.

The Coming of Age of American Jewry?

Does this mean a coming of age of American Jewry? In some respects American Jewry, like the United States itself, is constantly "coming of age." "Coming of age" is such a very familiar theme in American life and thought that each generation seems to repeat it. On the other hand, there is a qualitative difference in American Jewish life today. At the beginning of the first postwar generation, Jewish students were not certain that they could hope to break down the enrollment barriers raised by anti-Semitism in the "best" universities. By the end of the generation, the first Jews were being appointed university presidents. This year a Jew was chosen to be president of Princeton, widely known as the school that most excluded Jews until relatively late.

To take a different kind of example, since the 1973 oil crisis American Jews have anticipated onslaughts of anti-Semitism each time there has been some unpleasant event in which Israel or Jews were implicated. Each time Jewish expectations were wrong. Anti-Semitism continues to exist but it is definitely a peripheral phenomenon.

In matters of Jewish identity there is also a certain coming of age, in a sense that there is now a clearly American Jewish identity. Jonathan Woocher has described the components of that identity in his book, Sacred Survival, prepared under the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs as part of the Center's study of the civil religion of contemporary Jewry. All of the surveys show similar results.

There is a body of Jewish ritual observance, public and private, that has become expected of American Jews, a body consisting of those observances most in harmony with a rather secularized American ideology. Thus the Pesach Seder has become the most widely observed ritual because it celebrates freedom. Indeed, its attainment of this position is a direct product of the 1960s when those radicals who identified as Jews sought a Jewish means to express their radical commitment to freedom and found it in the Seder. Hannukah remains the next most widely observed ritual for reasons with which we have long been familiar, namely it offers a practical Jewish parallel to Christmas and once again celebrates an event that requires a minimum amount of religious commitment. High Holy Day observances, now down to third place, are more problematic because they require long hours in the synagogue where many people who no longer believe in the spiritual message of the High Holy Days and do not know sufficient Hebrew to participate in the prayers or even if they do are not moved by them, are required to spend many hours in what is essentially a boring activity in their eyes.

Since the 1950s and, most particularly since the late 1960s, certain observances, such as Kashrut and Shabbat rituals have become the norm at public functions. There is now a sense of public respect for Jewish tradition even where private observance is lacking.

Overall, ritual observances that are more in the way of "happenings" are observed more widely than those that require the maintenance of a routine such as lighting Sabbath candles. Observances that offer positive pleasures, such as the building of a Sukkah, are far more acceptable than those that require self-denial, such as the the maintenance of Kashrut. Again this fits well into the spirit of contemporary American society. Finally, rituals that involve the children and are even focused on them are far more widely observed than those primarily adult-oriented and require belief and commitment to be meaningful.

If I have overdrawn this picture somewhat it is only because I want to suggest that this is the common denominator. Perhaps a quarter of American Jews take traditional religious observance seriously in some serious way (they are probably divided 10 percent Orthodox, 10 percent Conservative and 5 percent Reform). For the rest, Judaism is a combination of contemporary American religiousity, that is to say, religion compatible with hedonistic individualism, one that is cheerful, makes minimum demands, emphasizes personal fulfillment and is in harmony with the therapeutic society; contemporary Jewish civil religion with its emphasis on Israel and Jewish community; and the celebration of Jewish ethnicity. It remains to be seen whether this is a self-sustaining Judaism or not. It certainly does not work to prevent intermarriage, perhaps because, in the American spirit, religious matters are deemed to be exclusively the province of the individual and no individual has the right to make demands of conscience on any other person.

American Jewry has come of age in a different way in the realm of Jewish culture. At least for Jews who care, there is now an authentic American Jewish culture expressed in devices as widely different as the Jewish Catalog, Jewish studies programs in the universities, scholar-in-residence programs from coast to coast, Hebrew-oriented Jewish summer camps, and contemporary American-Jewish literature. This is not the place to describe this American Jewish culture in detail. What is important for our purposes is that while it originated outside of communal leadership circles, the new generation of communal leaders are drawn from among those who have gone through the socialization processes of this cultural experience and who must do so to be accepted.

This new American Jewish culture has some very strong points and includes some of the very best Judaica scholars in the world. It has some authentic points in that it is a meaningful synthesis of the American and Jewish experiences. It has its share of kitsch and it has a certain amount of inauthenticity and superficiality which may also be characteristic of the environment in which it has developed. It is real, however, although by the very nature of that environment, only partial in its reach and influence.

Despite the argument of the revisionist demographers that propinquity provides communal cohesion and it is enough to preserve Jewishness that there are so many Jewish lawyers who work together and Jews in Hollywood who work together, we can see that propinquity is not enough, that one must live within some kind of Jewish cultural framework and according to some kind of Jewish rhythm for one's Jewishness to be meaningful. For American Jews this still means what Mordechai M. Kaplan enunciated so well two generations ago as living in two civilizations. Unfortunately many of the leading American Jewish intellectuals today, recognizing that most American Jews do not have the foggiest notion of what it means to live in a Jewish civilization, are trying to build a theory which suggests that it is not necessary, that one civilization with a few Jewish overtones is enough. That was the basis of Jacob Neusner's praise of American Jewish life and his attack on Israel in his notorious article of last March in the Washington Post.

In my opinion they are simply wrong. Jews are Jews only insofar as they are part of Jewish civilization. No civilization exists without a rhythm of its own. The secret of Jewish survival lies in the fact that until our own century all or the vast majority of Jews lived according to a Jewish rhythm, either because they lived in their own land (in ancient times) or because they lived within the rhythm of Jewish tradition as defined by halakhah in their own communities in exile.

The success of the American Jewish experiment and indeed the experiment of living under conditions of freedom anywhere outside of Israel is contingent upon being able to develop and maintain an appropriate Jewish rhythm for the vast majority of identifying Jews in the diaspora communities. For some, a significant minority but still a minority, traditional Judaism in one form or another provides that rhythm. For others Zionism once provided that rhythm. Indeed the Zionist movement consciously and deliberately set out to do so, creating a Zionist calendar embracing but also parallel to the traditional Jewish calendar. But Zionism no longer can do so and in the USA, never could.

In North America the federation movement has developed its own calendar that reflects a civil Jewish rhythm suitable to the new Jewish civil religion. Thus those active in the federation movement know that the year begins with the CJF quarterlies in September, just prior to Rosh Hashanah; proceeds through the UJA missions to Israel in October; the GA in November; the annual meetings of the UJA, UIA, etc. early in December; the winter board institutes meetings of senior professional staff, and kick-off of the campaign in January, where the calendar also takes on a geographic dimension in that the meetings are held somewhere in the sunbelt, usually in Florida; the beginning of the campaign in February continuing through May; the quarterlies in April geographically tied to Washington, D.C.; the campaign wrap-up in May and clean-up in June, leading into the Jewish Agency Assembly. For many years summer was dead time, but now it is being absorbed into the rhythm as well with meetings such as the Brandeis Leadership Institute or (perhaps) the Hollander Colloquium. Moreover, the end of August is now being added to the rhythm with the Presidents' Mission as a pre-campaign kick-off.

Within this overall rhythm there are many more specialized events which add to the Jewish connection. All told, this is a practical way of providing a Jewish rhythm for some of the most committed and involved American Jews. Moreover it is an authentic creation of the federation movement and its counterparts in what I have described as the keter malkhut, the domain of civil governance of the Jewish people. In this respect it is a rhythm parallel to the traditional religious rhythm developed by the keter torah, the domain of Torah, which in the years of exile and dispersion provided the rhythm for civil events as well (i.e., communal elections were always held during hol hamoed Pesach). But it is a public rhythm only and does not really include home and family. Hence its impact is limited to a relatively small leadership group.

Implications for the Federation Movement:
Problems of Changing the Traditional Focii

It is not my responsibility to deal extensively with the implications of all this for federations, but I do want to raise a few critical issues. First of all, the shift of Jewish population to the South and West and to smaller communities on the rurban-cybernetic frontier means that there are new issues of fundraising, membership and provision of services that must be confronted. In order to cope with these problems it is necessary to go beyond the local federation the way most are presently constituted, that is to say, centered in a major central city and reaching into those suburbs which represent extensions of the city. It is necessary to begin to consider certain countrywide or even continent-wide services.

For example, the Council of Jewish Federations should consider establishing a permanent population study center to study the demographics of the Jews of the United States. Canada is fortunate in having a national census that asks questions that identify Jews by religion and ethnicity. In the United States, while the larger federations can conduct demographic studies, the smaller ones and the newer ones rarely do and it is in precisely those areas that the number of unaffiliated Jews is growing. It may be that only CJF can fill this gap or at least it should play a role in arranging for doing so in cooperation with local federations.

Flowing from that, CJF must engage in long-range strategic planning to keep on top of the trends as they develop and to suggest ways for those trends to be assimilated into the ongoing work of the federations. In this respect, CJF can serve the entire continent since many Canadian Jews migrate to the United States, especially to the sunbelt, in the course of their lives.

The federation movement will have to recognize the states as relevant entities, not only to lobby in state capitals for government support or to advance programs of federation interest but in terms of organizing. Traditionally the states have served as the basis for similar kinds of non-Jewish organizations - religious, educational, labor and business. The Jews rarely if ever organized that way because they were concentrated in the big cities. Now there are services which can only be provided on a statewide basis, for example, services to Jewish university students. In many states the state university is not located in the city with the major concentration of Jews. Yet that city may contribute the vast majority of Jewish students at the state university. Community relations efforts of all kinds may be best broadened to a statewide basis. Certainly smaller Jewish communities outside of the major metropolitan areas should not be left to their own resources any more than weaker Jewish populations within the metropolitan areas are.

In some parts of the country, New Jersey for example, most federations are already organized on a regional rather than a metropolitan basis. This is also true of outstate Illinois, albeit in a far more limited way because the number of Jews and the amount of Jewish resources are limited. The Jewish federations of Delaware and Rhode Island are examples of statewide federations that developed in small states with relatively small Jewish populations within easy driving distance of the principal city, but including the state's "independent" communities as well.

Regionalization within local federations also may become important as they expand to encompass ever more spreading Jewish populations. The Los Angeles Federation is a case in point. Covering virtually all of Los Angeles County, an area of over 4,000 square miles (almost the entire area of Connecticut), for a long time its real activity was confined to the central core of West Los Angeles/Beverly Hills/Westwood. By creating a regional structure it has generated greater involvement, a higher level of services and better fundraising throughout the country.

An alternative to regionalization are regional or statewide confederations of federations. The federations in the San Francisco Bay Area are at least talking about confederation for certain purposes. There is every reason to believe that the federations of New Jersey should move in that direction. Undoubtedly there are other states where this would be useful as well. One caveat, there must be some symmetry in size - confederations do not work where elephants are confederated with mice. The mice properly remain afraid that the elephant may sit down somewhere without looking first. But with that caveat there are possibilities of this kind to be pursued.

In many cases, it will be sufficient to develop networking among federations, either to deal with some of the examples dealt with above or with more difficult problems. For example, in our mobile society many people divide their time between more than one community when they have the economic means to do so. Until recently, only retired people fell into that category, living half the year in their communities in the Rust Belt and the other half in the Sun Belt. One of the characteristics of the rurban-cybernetic frontier is that more people will be able to do so since it will be possible to manage one's enterprises from different locations. This poses serious problems for two reasons. One, by dividing their time, individuals no longer can be truly active in either community. Two, the question arises as to which community should receive their contribution. Since this is usually a substantial contribution, the problem is not merely an academic one.

If, as promised, the rurban-cybernetic frontier makes living in more than one community a common phenomenon even for people who are in their most active and productive ages, the implications for the Jewish community are serious. Where do they become involved? Can they become involved at all? Does their gift continue to go to any local community? If so, how is it apportioned? It may be that a series of reciprocal agreements among the different federations can solve this problem, but maybe the CJF should develop a standard agreement, even a countrywide pact, for all federations to accept, which CJF would then be responsible for overseeing.

These kinds of contracts could be used in other areas as well. Contracting for services has become a major device in the administration of local government in the United States and elsewhere. There is no reason why it cannot be applied to the federation world as well. Rather than seeking more elaborate structures, it may be sufficient, for example, if the federations in a particular state would contract with the federation in whose city the major state university was located to provide services to local students with appropriate compensation from each federation, perhaps on a per capita basis. Such contracts would make it possible for the local federation to take on the requisite personnel or oversee the local Hillel foundation in carrying out these responsibilities. Or federations in the colder parts of the country could contract with federations in retirement areas with regard to providing elderly care services for former residents. Another way to deal with that would be to create a fund at CJF to which every federation would contribute and which would be used to cover at least some of the costs for care for the elderly. In sum, technically there are many possibilities for sharing the service delivery burden more fairly.

Part of the response to this decentralization of population will be that CJF and the other countrywide organizations will have to strengthen their services to smaller Jewish communities and give them a greater role on the national scene so that they will cease to be isolated as they have been in the past and be able to benefit from being part of a larger community.

Finally, the federation movement will have to continue to concern itself with issues of Jewish unity and diversity in relation to Israel and in relation to the various movements in Jewish life. As the framing institutions of the North American Jewish community, they will be the ones who speak most directly to the Israeli government, principally through the Jewish Agency, and the ones for whom unity has the greatest immediate operational meaning. As framing institutions they will increasingly become arenas for working out the problems of Jewish unity and diversity, hopefully as forums rather than as locii of raw conflict. But one way or another they will be the arenas. That is a large task but it is a great one. It should be pursued intelligently.

Up to now, continent wide, the federation movement has tended to function in the natural Jewish way, that is to say, to rely upon mavenology to deal with changing circumstances because all Jews see themselves as mavens. The more progressive local federations have long since given up on mavenology in such matters to pursue long-range planning. Both the opportunity and the time have come for CJF to take the lead in doing the same for North American Jewry as a whole.

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