Hillel centers on university campuses were viewed not long ago as little more than the local Jewish hangout, a place where students could come for kosher meals or socialize with other Jews. But in a move that Hillel leaders say has been forced upon them by this generation's altered social landscape, the organization is throwing open its doors to everyone, designing programs that appeal to Jews and non-Jews and hyping its contribution to university -- not only Jewish -- life.
But this is 21st century America, not 18th century Poland or 20th century Germany. Pew tells us that Americans are switching religions like never before. Do we want to enter the competition armed with our wonderful 3,000-year-old history, or kvetch about assimilation, intermarriage and our dwindling numbers?
When Eminem (who is white) is the most popular rapper, Tiger Woods (who is part African American and part Asian) is the greatest golfer and Serena and Venus Williams (African Americans) dominate women's tennis, should it upset us that Jewish Culture Festivals are run by non-Jews for audiences of primarily non-Jews, and that klezmer music is performed by non-Jewish performers for non-Jewish audiences?
These thoughts came to mind reading Ruth Ellen Gruber's "Virtually Jewish" (University of California, 2002), an account of the renaissance of Jewish culture in Europe often in places where Jews no longer live, and a discussion of the complexities and contradictions it has engendered.
He fought a desperate battle against communism, crafted award-winning plays and books and functioned as an intellectual and spiritual compass for Prague's Jewish community for more than a decade.
But in late June, something extraordinary happened: Karol Sidon was forced out as the community's chief rabbi.
According to the released portions of the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), 1.5 million non-Jews live with Jews. Who are they? How do they relate to the Jewish community? How should the community respond to them?
Against the backdrop of a Jewish population that the NJPS describes as declining and graying, the decisions that interfaith couples make about the religious identity of their children are critical to the future vitality of the community. I believe that every attitude, every practice, every policy should be evaluated primarily by this standard: Will it increase the likelihood that the children of interfaith families will be raised as Jews?