Thursday, April 14, 2011

Programs versus People

Next week, starting Monday night, starts the holiday of Passover, often regarded as the single most observed Jewish event of the year (unless you count Chinese food on Christmas).

As many Jewish young adults return to their families for Seders, a large number will be targeted for 'young adult seders', programs organized or paid for by Federations, foundations, and other sources. While many of these programs will be incredibly positive for those who attend, they are rarely a substitute for the familiar familial settings.

It was this realization that caused me to start thinking about the situation in which we find ourselves, where programming has replaced people.

I am, on a weekly basis, invited to tens of events, ranging from fundraisers, concerts, panel discussions, and Jewish educational, social, cultural, and religious events.

The chance that I might actually get to have a Shabbat dinner with a few friends, instead of being at a 'Shabbat Dinner Program' is pretty slim. Or at least it was.

You see, organizations, from the Jewish Federation to Moishe House, Next Dor, and on down the line often confuse outcomes with outputs, substituting the number of programs and of participants at these programs for the actual larger goal of creating a Jewish community.

Perhaps this is a result of the non-profit industrial complex, that is to say that in trying to make our work comply with for-profit standards of return-on-investment, that we are forced to view people as widgets.

Jewish community isn't about the number of Shabbat programs I go to, but rather if I have a solid group of friends with whom I am regularly able to have a Shabbat dinner.

This doesn't mean programs aren't valuable. Providing someone, particularly a transplant with a place for Seder can be very powerful, but when we try to use the Seder to leverage other programs, instead of focusing on the people, the relationships, and the experience, I believe that something is lost.

On Passover, we celebrate leaving 'Mitzrayim', the Hebrew for Egypt, but literally translating to 'the narrow place'. It is therefore fitting that we should try to escape narrowly viewing our work as the number of programs we create and recognize that the programs are the vehicle to get us to the destination, they are not the destination itself..

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Monday, April 11, 2011

What's Good for Jewish Young Adults in April

Got Passover Plans?

Passover starts Monday night, April 18th, do you need a place for Seder? Chabad is hosting young adult seders both nights, Rabbi Shafner of Bais Abe is opening up his house, and Central Reform is placing young adults with families. For some light reading, check out NEXT Dor's idea for a '5th Question' on Birthright NEXT's webzine, Alef.

The Main Event(s)

Thursday, April 14 - Next Dor's Organic Garden kicks off and you can help. From 4 PM until it gets dark, help dig, plant, and make the garden bloom. If you have access to spades, wheelbarrows, or tillers, let Next Dor know: or RSVP here

Thursday, April 14 Young Adults at Bais Abe (YABA) in conjunction with Next Dor St. Louis and JGrads St. Louis presents the 2nd Annual Pre-Passover Wine Tasting (back by popular demand)! FEATURING *A choice variety of kosher for Passover wines for your tasting pleasure *An assortment of cheeses and fruits to cleanse the palate (and because... we like cheese and fruit) 7:00pm - 10:00pm at Bais Abe 6910 Delmar Boulevard Saint Louis, MO

Saturday, April 16 · Moishe House is hosting a Shabbat Brunch. Begin your Saturday the best way possible...with Moishe House STL for Shabbat brunch. Appetizers, drinks, and desserts are always welcome! 11:00am - 2:00pm at 915 Concordia Ln Clayton, MO

Sunday, April 24th, Moishe House is hosting a Rock-a-Thon to raise money alongside Mizzou's AEPi for charity. 1:00PM at 915 Concordia

Wednesday April 27th - YPD hosts Benyamin Cohen, the Atlanta-born son of an Orthodox rabbi, traveled around the Bible belt visiting various places of worship to find out why Christians seem so excited about Christianity. He wrote this humorous yet sincere account of how this transformative experience impacted his own spirituality and Jewish identity. 7 PM at Fallon's Bar and Grill in Olivette. Contact Lee’at Bachar at or 314-442-3817 to RSVP or with questions.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Next Dor's 5th Question

This story originally appears on Birthright Israel NEXT's blog, Alef and can be found here

Next Dor’s 5th Question

We’ve asked Jewish educators and organizations all over North America to add a fifth question to the Seder – one that will inspire us to make Passover meaningful for today’s Jewish world. Find out more about our 5th Question project.

This 5th Question comes from Next Dor -

Passover, it turns out, is the most celebrated Jewish holiday of the year. More than Shabbat, more than Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Even ‘high holiday only’ Jews usually make it to a Seder. If Passover, then, is the most important Jewish holiday (by participation), and the Four Questions are the most important parts of the Seder, a fifth question must be taken quite seriously. After all, the Four Questions cut to the heart of the narrative, forcing us to think about our meal as more than just the sum of the foods and people assembled therein. Therefore, I propose a straightforward question, one that it seems is taken for granted by many, but altogether unclear for so many other in our community.

The question is: “Why be Jewish?”

Ok, I know it isn’t in the standard format of ‘why on this night do we do this or do we not do this’, but I think it is probably the most important question in the Jewish world that receives the least amount of attention. Particularly in a time in which so many young adults born to Jewish parents are not identifying with the Jewish community in ways previous generations did, when Antisemitism seems so foreign, and when Israel is so mired in conflict, identifying with and participating in the Jewish community isn’t a given.

I believe that asking this question at the Seder would be quite powerful. Particularly after spending so much of the Seder identifying with our ancestors of old and their struggles, asking and answering the question ‘why’ should we be Jewish today and build the Jewish community in the future would be a strong reaffirmation of our people-hood. It also might give us a chance to really listen to those we consider ‘unaffiliated’ or ‘disengaged’. We might just learn a thing or two and find deeper answers for ourselves as to why we choose, in an age of science, secularism, and sectarianism, to be Jewish.

Next Dor is a platform and program to empower young adults to build Jewish community that is relevant and vibrant. Based out of a renovated house, Next Dor provides the resources and opportunities to bring young adults together in an informal and non-institutional setting.

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