At the Crossroads: Reinventing the Jewish Policy Sector

Steven Windmueller, Ph. D.

Posted on April 29, 2015 / 10 Iyyar 5775

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph. D.

 

A number of avenues of Jewish life are undergoing a process of reinvention; over the past several years, these have included Jewish education, camping, outreach initiatives, global social activism, and synagogue worship. Why not the discipline of Jewish community relations? Why not explore a partnership with the major streams of American Jewish philanthropy to re-engineer and grow the community relations enterprise? In hindsight, the community relations system must be seen as one of the extraordinary success stories within the American Jewish experience.

The core components of this field remain essential to the welfare and viability of the community. Yet, in a changing environment and culture, how best can the community relations “field” address its future, while continuing to meet the challenges that are facing the Jewish people and American society?

This is hardly the first time that this discipline has sought to recalibrate its messages and its mechanics. From the outset, the core instrumentalities of the CR enterprise examined not only external threats and internal challenges but also analyzed its tools of advocacy and engagement. With its array of organizational partners and structural resources, the field tested different models of accessing the public square and delivering its messages. Fighting anti-Semitism, promoting civil rights, advancing the social welfare agenda, managing the case for Israel, and advocating for Soviet Jewry would represent substantive examples that demanded collaborative intervention and shared leadership. In turn, new components of communal action would be introduced along the way.

One of the core mandates related to the evolution and development of the American Jewish community was the following proposition:

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