A lighthouse for the Jewish future
I relish the extent to which the Jewish people is, in fact, a global family.
Alexandra Wolkoff (left), Hannah Turner (center) Photo: Ofer Shimoni
Jewish leadership, like Jewish affiliation, is taking on many different forms,
and recognizing new leadership and affiliation patterns has become a challenge
we can no longer afford to ignore.
For years now, we have been making a
national pastime out of bemoaning “growing indifference” and “alienation” of
young Jews to Israel and Jewish life (as reflected in the drastic drop in
affiliations to Jewish communities and Jewish/Israel-related organizations). But
what we should begin to realize, is that such affiliations are no longer an
accurate measure of Jewish or Israeli identity.
Lately, I have come to
identify most with the current generation of young Jewish leaders. I subscribe
fully to their life-goals, multi-faceted worldviews, and fluid sense of identity
(not to mention their hectic lifestyles). Though these leaders differ greatly
from our parents’ generation – celebrated luminaries and respected leaders of
men – it is far from a bad thing. These young trailblazers think and feel and
touch the world on numerous levels. They are primed to make a real
And don’t be fooled: they are not more or less identified or
committed than previous generations. Rather, their identities are more
integrated, more inclusive than any others who have come before.
child experts tell us that a parent’s main task is not to be an instructor but a
“lighthouse,” a point of light by which the next generation can comprehend their
environment and steer a sure course. Indeed, our own Jewish sources having been
telling us the same thing for thousands of years.
According to our
tradition, it is the Jewish mission to become “a light unto the nations,” a
proverbial lighthouse for the world. But before we can lead others, we must
first figure out how to become the guides these young Jewish leaders really
I believe that our first challenge in passing the torch is
capitalizing on every type of leadership and meeting the younger generation on
For example, we must recognize that recommendations via
social media are powerful tools. In fact, marketing experts have determined that
they are often more effective than conventional (read: the same old) channels
because they constitute a personal connection and instill trust. They also lead
to action, commitment and real results (often in real-time).
generation subscribes to a certain worldview that characterizes the way they
live, act and interact with others.
For our grandparents, it was
For our parents, it was internationalism.
For us, it
is globalization – the quest for an integrated, synergetic world. This has
become a reality in our modern world, and has always been the Jewish
Judaism has always relied on geographic mobility and fluidity.
It is a way of life that nurtures flexible ideas and thinking – it is second
nature to us.
When I travel the world for KH-UIA events and programs, I
relish the extent to which the Jewish people is, in fact, a global
I see my leadership role as an expression of globalization, an
essential Jewish value that began when Abraham was commanded by the Almighty to
leave his past behind and charge forward to the Land of Israel. It was a
courageous venture that took great fortitude. But above all, it was an act of
faith. Guided by the Creator’s “light,” Abraham was able to lead the world in a
And so our best next step is actually a leap of faith. We
must release our young Jewish leaders from our antiquated notions of leadership
and affiliation so that they can “go forth” and tackle the issues facing our
global Jewish family in ways that best suit the times in which we live. As
challenging as it might be, we can best serve these talented and committed young
men and women by simply becoming the points of light they need to comprehend
their past and steer a sure course for our Jewish future.
The writer is
the chairman of Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal’s World Board of Trustees.
Ms. Arbib will discuss the future of Jewish leadership alongside a panel of
fellow experts at the upcoming Fourth Annual Israeli Presidential Conference:
Facing Tomorrow 2012.