Jewish Journal

The Next Big? Jewish Idea?

by Pini Herman

June 29, 2011 | 9:02 am

A new Jewish Paradigm?

The LA Jewish Federation is about to announce the winner of The Next Big Jewish Idea

Innovation, innovation, innovation is the mantra.  Jewish social service agencies and providers in LA are having their historical funding from the Federation reduced, greatly reduced or eliminated.

Bob Goldfarb, president of the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity,  puts innovation in context in “Innovation and Responsibilty

Whom does Jewish innovation serve? It’s a question that needs closer attention as the sector continues to grow. According to a recent report, The Jewish Innovation Economy, this sector “is more focused on Jewish identity and belonging, along with religious expression, than on social services and large-scale institutional action.” That’s markedly different from Federations, which typically have a primary commitment to caring for Jews in need.

I fear, that the current paradigm shift is: Rather than serve the needy, the innovators see themselves, and people they know and are like them, as in need of the organizations they are developing to actualize where they see their place in the world.

Our LA Jewish Federation is marching bravely into the new Jewish Innovation world as Jay Sanderson, Federation president, heralded his view of The Jewish Innovation Economy study.

Goldfarb describes the findings of The Jewish Innovation Economy

These data confirm the emergence of a new class of Jews defined by disproportionate access to communal resources. As several attest in the study, they often use their advantages to pursue their own interests. One speaks of “the drive to create a Jewish community that I would want to participate in myself.”

Goldfarb points out the possibility of a reverse Robin Hood.  Resources from services to the needy being diverted to the well-off.

If the innovation sector displaces older communal structures, the question of whom it serves becomes even more urgent. Here is a sector spending $200,000,000 a year on projects directed by a privileged group of leaders, yet with social services and human services glaringly underrepresented. This would have been a good time to correct that imbalance by recommending incentives to take care of the helpless and the needy among us.

Pini Herman is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) pini00003@gmail.com

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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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