October 2010

Young Jewish Professional Events

Jewish culture is all about community, though in the modern day it has had trouble accounting for demographics that mostly didn't exist before the 20th century. While Jewish organizations like synagogues, community centers and college campus Hillel give plenty of social options for Jewish youth and families, their programming tends to drop off considerably for unmarried individuals who no longer attend school. The young Jewish professional is among the least likely Jewish demographic to participate in any kind of religious community, be it joining a synagogue or participating in local events. After all, why should they take part in a community that does little to meet their needs, either spiritually or socially? The challenge for modern Jewish organizations is not how to draw young professionals to their existing structures, but deciding what kinds of new programming they can launch to appeal to this woefully under-serviced group. The following are a few ideas for young Jewish professional events, whether in an established organization or as a stand-alone activity.

The Importance of Shabbat

Of the Ten Mitzvot (or Commandments), only the fourth dictates a specific ritual. The text states, roughly translated from the Hebrew, "Remember the day of rest for its holiness" (zakhor et yom shabat l'kodsho). For thousands of years, this has been interpreted to mean that the seventh day of the week should be reserved for some sort of religious observance, the rituals we now simply call Shabbat. The rituals of Shabbat have come to include many things both at home and at the synagogue. But why is this observance so important that it deserves to be mentioned alongside the very moral core of Jewish philosophy?

Interfaith Marriage and the Modern Jewish Home

Jewish culture has often been associated with progressive politics, especially in the United States. Jews were some of the most common white supporters of the rights of people of color in the integration debate of the 1960's. Jews have always been present in demonstrations of anti-war protest, at the forefront of the gender equality movement and most recently in the acceptance of equal rights for same-sex couples. Still, there are a few cultural sticking points that keep Jewish culture within a somewhat conservative state of mind. The most prevalent belief is that Jews should only ever marry and have children with other Jews. What place does this belief have in modern American (or even global) society and is it still a valid point of view?

Mysticism Demystified: Tzadikim Nistarim

One of the great Jewish metaphors is that of the Tzadikim Nistarim, "The Hidden Righteous". It is the concept that, at any given time, there are 36 truly righteous people living in the world. This idea first appeared in the Talmudic tractate of Sanhedrin more than 2000 years ago and has remained a part of Jewish mystical conversations into the modern day. Hidden within the concept of the Tzadikim Nistarim is a thoughtful, somewhat ironic understanding of righteousness and leadership in Jewish philosophy.