In the past we have referred to a volume of essays that resulted from a conference titled Creating the Jewish Future which was held at the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University in 1996. It is fitting, in our last update of calendar 5779, as we restate both our purpose and our resolve, to refer once again to this publication.
In the Afterward of the volume, Prof. Irving Abella wrote the following: “It seemed self-evident that the major challenge to our Jewish leadership in the next generation should be building a Jewish community that is not simply concerned with survival, but one that is creative and attractive to our children – a community with substance and content, a community that stresses not only memory but other important values of our traditions – primarily social justice, equity, compassion and spirituality. We pride in its activities and achievements. We will have to find ways to convert alienation to action and passivity to pride, the pride of being possessors of a great legacy, a legacy which has meaning for today and beyond.”
Prof. Abella’s observation is eloquent and on the mark. It is fair to ask: Have we succeeded in the intervening 23 years since the conference or in the 20 years since the proceedings of Creating the Jewish Future were published, to give it true meaning?
I suspect that giving Prof. Abella’s exhortation true meaning is an ongoing task for each generation and has always been so – with adjustments according to the circumstances of the times and place – in every generation. That means it falls to all of us in each of our homes and in our respective social circles to contribute our own parts to the collective communal legacy.
The final instruction on “creating a legacy which has meaning for today and beyond” goes to Prof. Michael Brown who was then the director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University. His words still guide us.
North American Jewry “cannot allow blind forces to determine its destiny. It must create its own future out of the legacy of the past and the realities of the present. As Morton Weinfeld notes…the future is not determined; it need not be accepted passively; it can be shaped and created. But if the community is to take its fate into its own hands, then present reality and future goals must be clearly defined and squarely faced.”
Jewish education, in all its peoplehood-sustaining manifestations, is the key to creating the legacy Prof. Abella described. Therefore we must ensure that Jewish education, in all its manifestations, must be accessible and thus, affordable.
Shana tovah umetukah
GAJE, September 27, 2019