It is now, alas, an old story, yet an alarmingly urgent one, that a large number of young North American Jews are slipping away from meaningfully identifying with the Jewish people because they are unfamiliar with the fundamental, core aspects of Jewish life.
Sarah Hurwitz, a former senior speechwriter for U.S. President Barack Obama and chief speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama, recently spoke about this issue at an event entitled, Beyond the D’var Torah: How to Unleash the Potential of Rich Jewish Content, hosted by Jewish Funders Network.
An obviously accomplished young woman, she pleaded with the audience as one whose personal life until relatively recently typified the Jewish drift that she eloquently lamented. Hurwitz had an unremarkable Jewish upbringing but now yearns to know more. She wishes to learn more about the entirety of her heritage – of Jewish law, the power of Jewish spirituality, and the lessons of Jewish history.
Hurwitz did not offer specific policy recommendations to her listeners. Nor did she mention the proven link between excellent, intense Jewish education and a lifetime of Jewish involvement. Rather, she imparted general principles of action that she believes – if implemented – will still be in time to bring back a generation of unknowing, even misinformed and uninvolved Jews to their Judaism and their Jewish people.
She spoke directly from her heart.
“I urge you to think big. Like Birthright big. Think about what could happen if we invested that kind of passion and commitment – and that level of resources – into a kind of Birthright experience that exposes people to powerful Jewish ideas and practices and shows them how the wisdom and worldview of Judaism can transform their lives.
And then Hurwitz offered personal testimony.
“Just for me personally, discovering rich Jewish content changed how I see the world and how I live my life, and it’s led me to want to inspire others to have the same experience. And I think if you all can find a way to reach more Jews like me, you can have a tremendous impact on our Jewish future.”
Thankfully, our community offers an educational experience that, over they years, has proven its transformative impact: Jewish education. But for the vast majority of middle income families, such education is not affordable. We must ensure in perpetuity that it is.
We therefore appeal to the entire community and especially to the civic-minded families who are able to act generously and inclined to acts of philanthropy, to “think big” on the subject of affordable Jewish education. The most assuredly direct and effective way to “have a tremendous impact on our Jewish future”, to use Hurwitz’s words, is to help make Jewish education affordable to all of the middle income families for whom it is now, sadly, beyond reach.
The Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto has created a tuition-assistance endowment fund. Please think big about donating to this fund.
You can view Ms. Hurwitz’s presentation and read the text of her remarks here: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/former-obama-speechwriter-speaks-on-rich-jewish-content/#more-112676