EMPOWERMENT AND PLURALISM: THE WAYS IN AND WITHIN JUDAISM
This past year, I was education coordinator for Hillel at Brandeis University. Although I had many other Jewish jobs that year (Hebrew school teacher, bar mitzvah tutor, children’s services leader, etc.), I learned about Jewish education from my experience with Hillel. As a microcosm of the larger Jewish community, Hillel reflects and grapples with issues and questions that drive us, and has been a place for me to experiment, discuss, and reflect on some possible solutions. Those challenges include how to engage the unengaged and how to connect those already engaged to each other. In other words, empowerment and pluralism.
Why “empowerment” and not “engagement?” “Engagement” tends to view Jewish education as a numbers game. How do we get more people in the door? How do we ensure the continuity of such-and-such Jewish institution? These questions are frustrating to me and others in my generation. We have been told since we were children that we are the Jewish future, that we need to care and participate in the organized Jewish community. But we were rarely given a compelling reason why. Why should we give our time and effort to something if it has no personal meaning?