It’s time to rethink liberal Judaism. Here’s my plan.

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on January 19, 2018

Rethink Liberal JudaismIn December, the Reform and Conservative movements held their national convocations, spurring me to examine the state of non-Orthodox Judaism on this continent.
Those denominational gatherings took place in the shadow of some significant and disturbing data on the state of religion in America. The fall-off in membership, the aging of mainline religious supporters and the corresponding rise in religious “nones” represent some of the striking indicators of this religious free-fall among younger Jewish constituencies.…read more

Lox and Bagels Not Wanted Here: Reflections on Growing Up “Southern”

Written By Steven Windmueller on January 17, 2018

Monument Avenue and Lee Monument, Richmond, VA. The Tichnor Brothers Collection; Boston Public Library, Print Department.Growing up “Southern” is not only dealing with a geographical place but also a cultural mindset. In the 1950’s Virginia remained a centerpiece of the South’s resistance in giving up its 19th century way of life. This would be the world in which I would grow up, shaping my childhood experiences and memories.…read more


Responding to Anti-Semitism: Revisiting Old Assumptions, Understanding the New Threats

Written By Steven Windmueller on January 15, 2018

Cathedral of BrussellsFor more than one hundred years, the American Jewish community was managing its war against anti-Semitism employing a set of accepted community relations tactics. In this article, we are examining ten of the core assumptions that defined the community’s understanding of anti-Semitic behavior with the intent on pushing back against these now out of date value propositions.…read more

Becoming a Limmudnik! Jewish Learning as Global and Personal

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on December 31, 2017

Limmud Festival
I recently had the opportunity to participate in my first “Limmud England” (this year’s theme: “Made by You,” December 24-28th, Birmingham). Thousands of participants, including many regulars and countless first-timers, were treated to a Jewish learning feast that represents a unique and transformative experience within the Jewish world….read more

How Charlottesville Has Defined the Trump Presidency

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on August 17, 2017

Photo credit:; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.The events in Charlottesville this past weekend serve as a metaphor for a broader battle over what is America and who are Americans. The alliance of alt-Right groups present in Virginia last Saturday seeks to return this nation to a European-oriented culture of white superiority, where class and race matter. “Jews” served as the lightning rod for what would unfold on Saturday. The language, threats, and intentions of these Gestapo-type units who came to “demonstrate” were on display. Their dress, their weapons, and their demeanor would convey their message of hate.…read more

The Jewish Marketplace: Introducing the New American Jew

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on August 16, 2017

FishAs the pages of this website are constantly reminding us, there are new structural and social realities that are reshaping the contemporary Jewish story. How might we describe the current “state” of the American Jewish enterprise?…read more

Let the Debates Begin: Unpacking the Jewish Wars

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on August 3, 2017

DebateWhat divides the Jewish people? Jewish history is filled with communal conflict, disagreements over religious practice, personal conduct, and communal policy. In fact, Jewish texts reflect these controversies, offering at times detailed scenarios depicting the rabbis offering various perspectives. At times, we are introduced to a “majority opinion” accompanied as well by a “minority report.” …read more

Delayed Pilgrims

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on July 25, 2017

Emek Sholom Holocaust Memorial Cemetery. width=Jews fortunate enough to flee Nazi Germany and able to enter the United States, would set about rebuilding their lives, establishing themselves financially and seeking to create for themselves and their families alternative communities in their adopted America. Such was the case for some 100-immigrant families who arrived in Richmond Virginia just prior to the Second World War.
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Where the Jewish World Convenes: Some Reflections on the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on July 16, 2017

Nahum Goldmann PartipantsThe Nahum Goldmann Fellowship (NGF) may represent the single most important global Jewish network that exists today. Conceived and operated by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture (MFJC), the NGF, since its inception in 1987, has brought together more than 1000 young and emerging Jewish leaders from nearly 70 nations.
…

How Jews Reinvented America and Themselves: July 4th Reflections

Written by Steven Windmueller,Ph.D. on July 3, 2017

July 4th
As this country observes its 241st year of its independence, Jewish Americans can take pride in their contributions to the history, culture and public discourse of this nation. Over the course of their American journey, Jews have helped to reinvent this nation, just as they have redefined themselves in their roles as citizens.
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Developing a Liturgy for the Jewish Communal Profession

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on June 28, 2017

Torah ScrollIn the Journal of Jewish Communal Service (Volume 80, 2004), I had occasion to publish an article entitled, “Developing a Liturgy for the Jewish Communal Profession.” In that piece I offered the following observation:
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Six Months Later: The Impact of Donald Trump’s Presidency on American Jews

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on June 19, 2017

President Trump, joined by Vice President Pence, displays his signed Executive Order for the Establishment of a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, May 11, 2017, in the Oval Office. Photo: public domain.
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s surprising November victory, five new developments are reshaping the Jewish landscape in this country. As we observe Jewish political behavior six months into this extraordinary period in American history, what is happening inside Jewish America?…read more

An Untold Tale of Small Cities: Their Unique and Historic Contribution to Jewish Life in America

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on June 14, 2017

Kehillat Israel Cemetary
Over the course of the past 18 months, I have had the occasion to visit more than 15 small and intermediate communities. Indeed, many of these communities across the Northeast, Mid-West and South were at one time the backbone of the Jewish communal system, as they effectively organized their constituencies, delivered essential social and cultural services, and met the educational and religious needs of their communities, while adding to the historic evolution and cultural fiber of the American Jewish heartland. Yet, in some parts of this nation, the story of these communities is being rapidly lost.…read more

Fifty Years After: Reflections on the Zionist Dream and Israel’s Story June 1967

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on May 23,2017

Zionist DreamAs Israel prepares to observe the fiftieth anniversary of the Sixth Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, this moment offers us a unique point of reflection. Over the course of this year, the Jewish world will observe the 120th celebration of the birth of the Zionist Movement, 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, and the 70th observance of the UN Partition Plan. These interlocking events have ultimately enabled us to rewrite the modern Jewish story….read more

Asking the Right Questions: The Changing Landscape of Jewish Participation and Engagement

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on May 10, 2017

Asking the Right QuestionsA new social order is evolving within the American Jewish eco-system. The older framework of a fixed set of cultural norms and social queues is being challenged by a new regime of communal practice. Elsewhere, I have written about “legacy” and “boutique” organizations, describing many of the characteristics of these distinctive types of institutions.…read more

Jewish Los Angeles: Reflections and Insights

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on May 2, 2017

Jewish Los Angeles“Being Jewish in Los Angeles” reflects a constantly changing landscape of choices, experiences, and encounters as the institutions of the community are consistently reframing their messages and orchestrating new modes of communal participation. …read more

Reflections on the 1992 Civil Unrest: Examining the Jewish Response

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph. D. on April 26, 2017

1992 L.A. RiotsThe civil unrest in Los Angeles 25 years ago, sparked by the beating of Rodney King, represented a landmark moment not only for the city as a whole but also for the Jewish community. The riots that followed reshaped the city’s political discourse, shifting the traditional focus from a Black-white (Jewish) conversation to multiracial and culturally diverse discussions. The Jewish community was centrally involved in these conversations and the actions that would follow.
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Zion in America: This Nation’s Unique and Historic Relationship to the Jewish Homeland

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on March 25, 2017

US and Israel FlagAs thousands of pro-Israel activists gather this week in Washington, we are reminded of the special relationship that exists between the United States and the Jewish Homeland.
From the outset of the founding of this nation, the idea of America as “the new Zion” would play a significant role. Following the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson attempted to tie the new nation to the story of the Exodus and more explicitly to the idea of redemption and freedom.…read more

The Festival of Purim: Extracting Political Insights for 21st Century Jews

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on March 9, 2017

Esther & MordechaiPurim is one of Judaism’s festive observances that has occupied a more marginal position within the Jewish calendar. Along with Chanukah it represents a celebratory moment, absent any reference to God. The rabbis noted that there would be times in the experience of the Jewish people, when the community would need to act on its own in preserving Judaism. This concept of self-reliance has become a central theme in connection with modern Jewish history, as our people would sadly learn that there would be times when we would stand-alone against some of history’s most brutal tyrants. In those moments Jews would experience the silence of the “good people” who would fail to act on behalf of our collective welfare…read more

Jeffersonian Jews vs. Jacksonian Jews: Revisiting Jewish Political Behavior in the 21st Century

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on March 7,2017

Jackson vs. JeffersonOne finds today two competing political images reflecting different images of America. The 19th century contest between Thomas Jefferson’s universal prescription for America and that of Andrew Jackson’s populism, with its focus on making America “great again” is being recreated in the 21st century. As deeply ideological and partisan, Jews are being drawn to one of these two definitions of America…read more

Why Now? Why Here? Understanding the Rise of Anti-Semitism in America

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on February 28, 2017

Philly-cemetery-e1488239340888The most recent wave of anti-Semitic actions, involving at the time of this writing, two Jewish cemeteries (St. Louis and Philadelphia) and 89 bomb threats, have been directed against 72 Jewish institutions in 30 states since January 1st. These numbers have given rise to new and alarming concerns about hate crimes in this nation directed against Jewish Americans….read more

What’s Up With America’s Jews? Anxious about the Political Climate, Jews are in Search of Answers

Written By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on February 22, 2017

Looking for AnswersAmericans in general, and Jews in particular are in search of ways to express their political passions. As has been documented by this writer[1] and others, there are deep divides within our community but there are also many questions that our constituencies are asking. As communal leaders, practitioners and educators we must find ways to guide, teach and lead.
…read more

Jews and Politics: How a Trump Presidency Is Changing American Jewry

Written By Steven Winmueller, Ph.D. on February 3, 2017

Photo: White House Press OfficeThe emergence of the Trump Presidency has led to a renewed debate over the definition of America. For Mr. Trump’s supporters these early days of his Presidency have fulfilled their expectations. However, for many other citizens, including large segments of Jewish Americans, are experiencing total disbelief, angst, and even anger. Words such as “unbelievable” and “disaster” might best define the current social climate for large numbers of Americans. The policy directions introduced by our new President are seen as a radical departure from his predecessors….read more

Where Do We Go From Here? A Pathway to Action

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on January 21, 2017

Torn American FlagDonald Trump is our President. A new political culture is unfolding. For some Americans this marks a moment of triumph and high expectations, for others this represents an unsettling time, where feelings of anxiety dominate. We acknowledge we are a divided society, yet we as Americans remain committed to the pursuing the common good as we focus on five core principles of action:…read more

“If Work Won’t Kill You, Stress Will” : Jewish Communal Practice in an Age of Anxiety

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on January 12, 2017

AnxietyVarious studies on business and nonprofit professionals report that “burn out” represents the single major factor leading to resignation and career change. The Conference Board, a nonprofit think tank in New York, focusing on management and the marketplace, found “‘the majority of Americans continue to be unhappy at work.’” This 2012 Study of more than 5000 households revealed the following:…read more

Jewish Professional Practice: Focusing on Ten Behaviors

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph. D. on January 5, 2017

Change Negative BehaviorsIn my retirement from Jewish professional work, I have had occasion to experience the Jewish nonprofit world from the “other side” as a donor, board member, congregant and consultant. Indeed much of the work product is extraordinarily impressive, but certain elements of communal practice and professional behavior warrant attention….read more

2017 Philanthropic Trends: Implications for American Jewish Organizations

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. on January 4, 2017

PhilanthropyAs we enter 2017 it will be useful to examine various projections and assessments on the state of philanthropy in America. These twelve findings have implications for fundraising strategies as well as nonprofit policies, business practices, and educational programs within the Jewish community:…read more

Hanukkah Reclaimed: A Contemporary Political and Religious Perspective

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph. D. on December 24, 2016

HannukahAs an event in Jewish history, Hanukkah introduces a range of challenging questions and core religious and political insights. There is only minimal reference to this holiday in the Talmud, and there are no citations within the Mishnah. The commentaries actually begin with the question, “What is Hanukkah?” as if to suggest its import had been forgotten or its purpose uncertain.
…read more

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