My colleague, Beth Finger, is working tirelessly on a project called Jewish Without Walls. Be sure to check it out on Facebook.
During our conversation this morning, we both challenged the relevance of “Jewish affiliation”, which has been used in every Jewish demographic study as a measure of community success in modern America. The problem is, and has always been, that the operational definition of “affiliation” is often “pays dues to a synagogue”. Even those who expand the definition someone, rarely get beyond handing money to an organization (JCC, Federation, Hillel) as the operational definition.
The problem with the definitions:
- Synagogue affiliation doesn’t include serious Jews who are “not religious”.
- Those for whom membership is of little if any value are “not affiliated”, although they may be “very Jewish”: large numbers of elderly and many Gen Y’ers, for example
- These definitions don’t include significant numbers of Jews who relate to their Jewishness independently, including growing numbers who use social media to express their Jewishness
- “seasonal” connections of families of summer campers
- participants in independent minyanim and Chabad
- younger adults, in particular, who are doing Jewish in non-institutional spaces or in secular spaces
- Jews connecting online in meaningful ways
- folks who participate in Beth’s Jewish Without Walls, in havurot and in other groupings that are not (yet) dues-based groups