I am antagonistic towards the Jewish establishment. Reiterating my evaluation of their leadership in my prior post, they offer no compelling vision beyond raising money to feed a bloated infrastructure dedicated to fighting yesterday’s battles.
Which is why attending tonight’s benefit for Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps was so important for refreshing my faith in Jewry. Tonight several hundred Jews of all ages honored not just a special leader, their founder Rabbi David Rosenn, but a burgeoning community that is fun, deep, and committed to values I powerfully share. Rosenn has moved on after 13 years to become COO for the New Israel Fund, and the bittersweet appreciation for and from him was tear jerking.
In his remarks, Rosenn touched on the strains of thought at war in the American Jewish psyche: It is an interesting time in our community, he said, where old institutions are giving way; what will emerge in their place is uncertain. People don’t just wind up with good values, they are taught them, and not just in the classroom — they learn when their community lives out those values. Ultimately, justice is not only important for the continuity of Judaism but for democratic societies as a whole.
Noting the passion present, I could only echo the sentiments of Avodah alum Cara Herbitter upon introducing Rosenn, “I wish the establishment would adopt the values of Avodah.”
I spent plenty time lampooning and harpooning the organized Jewish community. I lambast because I care. I care that Jews and Judaism stand for something, that we represent something to the world other than our own existence. I hunger for leaders who see the same visions for a Jewish role in creating right relationships globally. If that room is any indication of where the Jewish community is headed, then we are redeemed of all our predecessors’ selfish failures.
In the room I saw Jewish continuity of a wholly healthier paradigm. Attendees discussed the obvious lesson of a pillar of the social justice world taking his credibility to a begging frontier: social justice in Israel. And in the territories. Same-sex couples lauded their acceptance here. A speaker of intermarried background made us all laugh by integrating Irish influence into her Yiddish vocabulary. The values here were far more than just direct service or structural justice.
Pursue - Action for a just worldThe event took the occasion to announce the launch of Pursue, the renamed AJWS-Avodah Partnership, taglined “Action for a just world.” Already the central address for Jewish change-makers in New York City, San Francisco and DC, the community it represents also holds keys to a leadership with a modern vision. Interim director Ilanit Gerblich Kalir concluded this evening by saying, “We work for the day when every Jew can turn to another and ask, ‘Where did you do your service?'” In order for that day to come, we must first have a day when Jewish leaders can role model the answer. This is a start. We need more, the world needs more. But this is a beautiful start.