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Jewish Journal

Left out of the Picture, Looking at Our Navels

by Pini Herman

June 23, 2011 | 11:45 pm

    • We're in there somewhere.
  • Today’s LA Times lead article headlines a “strong increase” in the past decade in non-traditional families such as single parent families, unmarried partners and and same-sex partners.  Whats happening with the Jews? The census doesn’t capture information on religion because of strictures of Church/State separation.  That’s a good thing.

    Whats bad is that the Jewish community has no idea of whether anything has changed in more than 14 years.  While Thomas Jefferson’s decennial US census creates a new vision of reality, current Jewish communal policy and planning is based on anecdotes and assumptions colored by Anetevka.

    So, Jewish community, study something cheap and easy, say Jewish start-up organizations. All the information can be gathered from the Internet. No messy, time-consuming interviews with thousands of plain old people.

    The trumpeted study of Jewish non-profit organizational start-ups found dearth of social service organizations among the start-ups featured in the survey. 

    A study co-author Shawn Landres said,

    Jews already do social service work quite well and the impact of a new start up might be limited. Second, although the new generation of Jewish start-ups might not be focusing on social service provision in their hometowns, many individuals and organizations are doing important work in the developing world.

    It is more fun to get on an jet and be the photogenic exotic abroad and the brave returning hero at home.  Its more messy to deal with violent couple living nearby or the festering wounds that can’t find adequate treatment or facilities locally.

    Its no wonder that the Jewish injunction is “The poor of your city, first.”  If no one ever looks, through an organized scientific survey, to see if there are such Jewish people around, then its easy to look elsewhere for challenges and sexier funding opportunities.

    Federation President Jay Sanderson, who moderated the panel, said it would be difficult for start-ups to compete with larger organizations — like the one he leads — when it comes to courting donors.

    I hope Sanderson dresses well and arrives in style when he goes acourtin’.

    Pini Herman serves as President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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    Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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