Embracing Change- Adapting to Modern Challenges in the Jewish Community

A good attitude towards change can have a powerful positive impact. It can help you overcome obstacles and grow as a person. The Jewish communities in America and Europe began to rethink their internal activities, self-conceptions, interrelations, and relations with the societies they developed. It was a development of great potential.

Changes in the Social Landscape

Despite the relative acceptance of Jewish communities in modern American civil society, there is still the issue of assimilation. As Jews become more integrated into the general culture, they are becoming less and less Jewish in their identities, which is reflected by a high rate of intermarriage.

This trend has been exacerbated by a shift in the political climate, with the Israeli government under Netanyahu moving far to the right. Many younger Jewish Americans have a much more progressive attitude toward Israel and are increasingly willing to criticize its policies.

Additionally, there is the ongoing problem of anti-semitism, which traces its roots to the false idea that Jews have fixed traits that make them inferior to white people. It was central to the Nazi worldview that led to the Holocaust, and it is part of the racial supremacy ideology that fuels white nationalism today. Negative stereotypes and hateful acts toward Jews often accompany these beliefs. Through holiday celebrations, Israel-related programming, and other Jewish education, Jewish community centers can help to promote Jewish culture and heritage. Social service, community, recreational, cultural, and even a fitness center are offered to the Jewish community by Jewish Community Centers (JCC).

Changes in the Economic Landscape

Jewish society understood that economic success was essential to its survival. As a result, it has always been sensitive to economic trends and willing to experiment with new opportunities. This flexibility was a significant factor in the economic success of many Jewish merchants.

However, the tremendous economic shifts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries undermined Jewish merchants in small rural towns (shtetl) and the cities. Legislation limiting the number of Jewish artisans cut into their incomes; in addition, urbanization further distanced Jews from their traditional communities and led to secularization.

The current economic crisis will likely further affect the financial viability of Jewish institutions, including synagogues and camps. A decline in accumulated wealth will also impact philanthropic giving patterns, affiliation rates, and levels of communal participation for the foreseeable future. It may also lead to the emergence of a new class of “near-poor” and “new poor” Jews. It will add to the challenge of funding the reshaping of core Jewish infrastructures.

Changes in the Religious Landscape

As the 1960s opened the door to new lifestyle options, America’s religious landscape also shifted. The share of Americans identifying as Christians declined, and non-Christian groups gained ground. In addition, a significant number of people left religious affiliation altogether, describing themselves as atheist or agnostic. Those who say they are atheist or agnostic now represent a quarter of the country’s adults. The share of Americans identifying as Jews have remained steady, and the share describing themselves as Buddhist or Hindu has increased slightly.

Among American religious traditions, Jews, Hindus, and Unitarian-Universalists are among the most highly educated, with nearly two-thirds of each group having post-graduate degrees. The Jewish community also has a very high level of intermarriage. It has contributed to a decline in the percentage of Jews who identify as Reform, although a majority of Jewish adults say they are both religiously and culturally Jewish.

Changes in the Political Landscape

When Jews arrived in America, they found a political culture that differed fundamentally from the political cultures of most European nations. The constitutional order was liberal in recognizing extensive individual liberties and rights, and it emphasized democracy by allowing multiple modes of participation in civil society, such as voting, running for office, forming interest groups to influence legislation, and expressing views in the media.

In addition, the relationship between the political order and civil society was neutral concerning religion. This neutrality permitted Jewish religious life and culture to thrive while guarding against state and church interference. Today, many American Jews are strong supporters of gay rights and other social justice issues. They are more likely than the general public to say homosexuals and lesbians should be able to marry. And, as a group, Jews are more supportive of President Obama than the general population. Yet, there is still a troubling undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the country.