Over the past few weeks, this blog has promoted the idea that connectedness must replace membership or affiliation as a measure of success in all that the Jewish community does. Today’s connectedness to all things Jewish cannot be measured in dues payments to organizations. Today’s realities, as well as those of the future, are more exciting, complex and challenging.
If connectedness is the goal towards which we strive as a community, then all Jewish learning must be directed towards giving learners the capacity and the motivation to be connected. Hence, this venture’s name: Jewish Connectivity.
Back in the day, all Jewish learning was geared to increasing the content to be learned. One could master Tanach, the Bible. Or the Talmud. Or Hebrew literature. Or Jewish history. You get the idea. Then along came the Information Age. We were still going to master the content. But now we would be helped by written anthologies and eventually computer software and websites that would put all the content into convenient places, cross referenced and hyperlinked.
Something interesting happened in the information age, though. As all this great content became easily accessible, more and more content kept appearing. And with that, the realization that nobody was going to be able to be the kol bo, the person who could master everything. What to do?
The answer was a simple one: enlist partners. The new wisdom became: since you can’t know everything, even with what’s out there using technology, stop trying to know everything. Instead, know more people. And learn to fill in the blanks using your own knowledge, technology, and your network of people. And let the network of people you know fill in the blank spaces.
In practical terms, I know a lot about Talmud and how to apply texts to real life dilemmas. But I am history-challenged. If I need the context that tells me why a certain ancient rabbi ruled on an issue in his way, I can crowdsource it. Someone in my network will know the historical context that might tell me that this particular rabbi lived in a place of persecution and had to be cautious in his rulings.
And what about our students? Well, they, too, will never master all the content that they need to lead exceptional Jewish lives, especially with challenges of time, educational budgets and such. But, what they can master, are the skills and motivation that will link them to all Jewish knowledge and Jewish wisdom.
And that, in my humble opinion, is the goal of Jewish learning today, for all ages: to building the connectivity, the capacity that will empower Jews to connect to other Jews, to Jewish families, to Jewish community and to Jewish wisdom and knowledge.
In the coming weeks, more on how we might define Jewish connection. And more about what the building blocks of the connectivity might be.