JDC in a Changing World

The following is a speech given by Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein at a JDC Schiff Society meeting on September 26, 2016. It is a tremendous honor to be with you this evening and a special joy to again have the opportunity to personally salute you who are involved in and support JDC. I've said before but it is never sufficient enough to thank you for your furthering the mandate of one of the great heroic organizations of Jewish life. I have seen your work in action around much of this world and continue to marvel at the outreach and goodness emanating from the firmest of Jewish values as they are embodied in this organization. I especially thank Phyllis Hattis Rubin for hosting us and Rebecca Neuwirth for her tenacity in getting me here. I also want to recognize though he could not be here this evening your new CEO-designate David Schizer. He is brilliant, eminently decent and wise, and devoted to the best of Jewish life. I congratulate both David and you for your decision to move on together.

September 27, 2016

photo: photo credit: Romina Hendlin

The following is a speech given by Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein at a JDC Schiff Society meeting on September 26, 2016.

It is a tremendous honor to be with you this evening and a special joy to again have the opportunity to personally salute you who are involved in and support JDC. I’ve said before but it is never sufficient enough to thank you for your furthering the mandate of one of the great heroic organizations of Jewish life. I have seen your work in action around much of this world and continue to marvel at the outreach and goodness emanating from the firmest of Jewish values as they are embodied in this organization. I especially thank Phyllis Hattis Rubin for hosting us and Rebecca Neuwirth for her tenacity in getting me here. I also want to recognize though he could not be here this evening your new CEO-designate David Schizer. He is brilliant, eminently decent and wise, and devoted to the best of Jewish life. I congratulate both David and you for your decision to move on together.

The topic for our conversation this evening is JDC in a Changing World and, of course, the world is changing, but as always the Jewish world is evolving at a faster pace. Let’s be clear that every generation tends to look at the one that comes after it with suspicion if not disapproval. And this young generation in the Jewish community, by whatever name you call it (millennial/self-reliant/odyssey/misunderstood), is fundamentally different from mine or even from the generations between me and those who are in the twenties and thirties.

In short form this we know:

So what does this mean for JDC and its future?

Here’s the nub of it in the plainest language I can use. This generation is searching for meaning: personal meaning and meaning in being a Jew. David Brooks asserts that they ‘want less stuff and more community.’ They are globalist, socially responsible, and hopeful. Therefore I passionately believe that everything JDC is doing and the changes it is making can be a vehicle and motivator for, and an instigator of ‘meaning’, meaning as a Jew and as a human being.

The next generation will no longer tolerate past glib answers to serious questions. They are searching and want to know why we care at all about Jewish survival and Jewish life whether for themselves or for their offspring? And at its core, JDC says that we Jews are a global people that reach beyond our walls and beyond ourselves. You are on the ground and fully hands on wherever needed. Therefore JDC can declare with full integrity that if a person wants to be part of something that suspends xenophobia and isolation and allows you to go to bed at night with the comfort of knowing that are finding meaning for yourself in making a difference in healing this world then come with us, join us, support and believe in us because that’s exactly what we’re doing.

As an organization you stand outside denominational affiliation, institutional self-service and communal segmentation that marks too much of the Jewish world and you believe that ‘Joint’ means just that… we are all in this jointly together.

From my perspective JDC is intent on sustaining an ongoing relationship with our history and with our mission because now more than ever you know that business as usual is not OK, ‘good enough’ is just not good enough and playing it safe no longer guarantees our safety.

Therefore you, JDC, should rightly feel compelled to do what Jews are supposed to do: to care about others who are not Jewish even if they might not have concern for us if the tables were turned. You also stand with Jews in Europe against the invidious tide of anti-Semitism and you provide shoulders for Jewish girls in Tunisia to lean on.

Additionally, you have a special concern for what is happening in Israel? And why? My answer as I said at your plenary four years ago is because no matter what our feelings about the policies of Israel’s government, it is your mission to empower the future of all Israelis, to be with them in the midst of their celebrations and to be with them to share their heartache; to care for their immigrants and other children and youth at risk, and as you say ‘to develop visionary solutions to meet the needs of all disadvantaged in Israeli society.’

You, JDC, have an ineffable but powerful message to take to Jews throughout this world: that we Jews passionately recommit ourselves to the ongoing and miraculous venture of Jewish life. Launched as we were into human history we Jews have a mission and a purpose. So it must be with passion, courage and especially with the incredible energy that is the hallmark of this organization that you lead us forward. The answer to the question ‘why should we survive’ is the fundamental truth of this organization. The reason we need survive is because we are a unique global people caring for our own and for others. That is the most perfectly reliable recipe and direction for finding meaning in our lives, meaning as Jews, as citizens of this world and as an integral part of humanity.

So I hope you get on with it and wish you well in that venture.

Sign up for JDC Voice Stories

Loading...

Share