American Jewry’s Comfort Level: Present and Future

The twenty-first century has challenged much of the prevailing optimism about the American Jewish future. Nevertheless, the United States continues to be the Diaspora society most welcoming of Jews and receptive to Jewish participation. Jewish renewal coexists alongside a larger narrative of Jewish assimilation. Jewish political influence may well have peaked, and its continuation should not be taken for granted.

The challenges confronting American Jewry are multiple. Jewish continuity has many disparate aspects including Jewish identity, education, marriage, aging, gender relations, the strengthening of communities, leadership, mobility, attitudes toward Israel, philanthropy, outreach, government relations, anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, building alliances, interfaith relations, and many others. Fragmentation of views on these issues is likely to increase further.

The main leadership test seems to be: who will be able to speak for American Jewry about the multiple challenges the community will have to face? And how will it be able to address the many problems concerning world Jewry in the years to come?

The battle for the future of a vibrant American Jewry begins with understanding the present better and continues with assessing what the future might bring. The need to develop tools to understand faster the changes that are occurring is perhaps the greatest challenge the community has to confront.

The book contains essays by and interviews with Sylvia Barack Fishman, Steven Bayme, Steven M. Cohen, Arnold M. Eisen, Rabbi David Ellenson, Manfred Gerstenfeld, Rela Mintz Geffen, Daniel Parmer, Leonard Saxe, Marc B. Shapiro, Ira M. Sheskin, Chaim I. Waxman, Jack Wertheimer and Steven Windmueller.

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