First, welcome to Brandeis and CMJS and congratulations on the conclusion of 31 very successful years at the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston.
Thank you! I’m excited to be here!
At CMJS you will be spearheading the Initiative for Jewish Identity. Can you describe the Initiative and tell us what experiences prompted you to feel this is where you wanted to focus your intellectual energy?
At the heart of the Initiative is the question of how to build a Jewish community that loves its faith, institutions, traditions, and Israel. Understanding how Jewish identity forms is an essential part of this inquiry. Jewish identity has been an issue that has been at the core of my work since 1970, when I became involved in Jewish community after the Six Day War. Through my work at a community center, I saw how the Six Day War brought issues of Jewish identity to the fore for many Jewish Americans and a renewed sense of ethnic pride to young people. At that same time, I saw firsthand that most formal afterschool educational programs were not really working. As the head of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Jewish identity continued to strike me as the preeminent concern of the community. For that reason, we put a high priority adult education programs and Israel travel followup. Continue reading