Numbers and data do not always reveal the full scope of a situation. It is only one method for
determining an outcome. But, depending on the circumstance, there are many other factors
to consider. The Pew Research Center’s report, “Jewish Americans in 2020,” which came out in
March, still has ramifications as we head back into sacred spaces this fall.
Many of the comments on the report said that the numbers show that the Jewish community
is on a downward spiral. But why are people so quick to judge and immediately go to the
negative? The report left me optimistic, and I felt encouraged that we are headed in the right
direction. The study referenced Jewish organizations that are filled with vibrancy and a
willingness to take chances.
Should it matter how someone finds connections to Judaism? In the 21st century, we are
incredibly fortunate to have new ways to engage with being Jewish. At JTeach.org we have all
sorts of activities for families, like making Shabbat candle holders. Our partner organizations
offer additional paths to connection like learning about the new government in Israel from
UnPacked for Educators or participating in a webinar from the Jewish Education Project on
developing new ways into Judaism.
“Franz Rosenzweig, the German-Jewish philosopher, was disconnected from his religion but
became a serious student of Judaism and even put out a translation of the Bible with Martin
Buber. It is said that when Rosenzweig was once asked, “Do you put on tefillin?” his answer
was, “Not yet.” “Not no, but “not yet, as Yossy Goldman explains in chabad.org, – and there is
a critical difference between the two. No implies that I am not doing it now, nor do I have any
plans to do it any time soon. Not yet means that while presently I may not be there, I am still
open to the suggestion. Hopefully, the time will soon come when I will be ready to
make tefillin part of my daily observance.”
Let us be open to continually reinventing how to include as many people into the circle, in as
many ways that we can dream possible, to bring Judaism into the lives of those that are
Alissa C. Zuchman, Ph.D.