Stewart Ain reports in The Jewish Week:
A severe shortage of young leaders.
“Misuses of power” by current, older leaders.
Little “collective identification” or sense of “group cohesion.”
Welcome to the state of the Jewish community, according to a panel of 23 “A list” thinkers whose soon-to-be-released crystal ball-gazing study suggests four possible scenarios of what the community might look like in 20 years.
The study, prepared by a Jerusalem-based think tank, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, was based upon the input of many leading planning professionals and 22 of the best minds of the Jewish people, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Obama administration Mideast adviser Dennis Ross.
And it was blunt in its assessment of today’s Jewish community, which it said is aging and declining in number and lacking the requisite leadership to tackle the challenges ahead.
“The Jewish people is facing a serious problem of high-quality leadership – spiritual, political and organizational – with no clear trend of improvement,” it said. “Current leadership, both in Israel and in Jewish institutions, with few individual exceptions, appears to lack the capacity to meet the challenges facing the Jewish people. It also lacks the deep understanding of changing realities and new ideas for coping with them ….
“Jewish leadership positions in Israel and in other Jewish communities do not attract the best and brightest – with some important exceptions,” the study continued. “Efforts to attract and prepare the best and brightest for leadership roles are inadequate.”
The study derided “inappropriate linkages between money and leadership as well as other misuses of power by leaders.” And it expressed concern that as “the Jewish community ages and the older generation enjoys better health and longevity, older leaders crowd out leadership opportunities for younger people” and thus inhibit the organized Jewish community’s response to changing times.
The study, “2030: Alternative Futures for the Jewish People,” was presented for the first time in Jerusalem on Feb. 17 to members of a visiting delegation from the Conference of Jewish Organizations of Major American Organizations. It recommends steps to avoid the worst-case scenarios, including increasing the Jewish birthrate, bringing more young Jews to Israel for at least one year, developing new forms of aliyah and, most importantly, attracting the best and brightest to positions of leadership.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Presidents Conference and one of those interviewed for the project, agreed that there “needs to be a concerted effort to bring younger people” into leadership positions. He said he has found many who are anxious to play a role, but he complained that “we are not training professionals or lay leaders.
“While I’m sure people will rise to the occasion, a more deliberative approach is warranted,” Hoenlein said. “The complexities of the issues we address today require that people be educated and understand the nuances of the issues.”
Read the full report in The Jewish Week.