JPI's GUIDING PHILOSOPHY
In response to this kind of research and the reality of the situation, Jewish philanthropic organizations such as the UJA have seen the need to allocate funds toward "Jewish Continuity" - in other words to try to stem the tide of Jewish assimilation. The Federations have noticed that intermarried Jews rarely give to Jewish charities, if at all, including the State of Israel.
The same CJF study shows that at least 300,000 Jewish children are being raised as Christians... Something must be done to solve this problem.
Surveys have shown that people who have received a Jewish education either in modern Jewish day schools or as adults have a higher commitment to Jewish life - be it personal, religious, or philanthropic.
The Federations recognize this, and together with the Wexner Heritage Foundation, are running intensive seminars and programs to educate Jewish philanthropists to learn about their heritage.
Therefore, Jewish education for children and adults of all age levels is a key factor for Jewish survival.
Recent Bnai Brith surveys have shown that around 90% of all college-age Jews youth are indeed attending colleges, universities and graduate schools.
The same surveys show that over 50% of Jews in the United States are professionals. The dreams of Jewish parents for their children to become doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professions are now a reality. At the same time, the majority of these individuals are the ones who are marrying out of the Jewish faith en masse. Contemporary observers of the Jewish scene have noted that today we have the best educated Jewish population in secular terms, yet ,at the same time, we have Jews who are functionally illiterate with regard to their own faith, regardingHebrew and the Jewish holidays, and that they have minimal identification with their own heritage, their own people, and even the State Of Israel.
The categorization of Jews in the United States has traditionally been broken down into 3 branches - Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox, with the majority belonging to Reform and Conservative. There have been some recent realignments - the Reconstructionist movement is claiming more adherents to be a fourth branch, and a new group, Traditionalist, made up of disenchanted Orthodox and Conservative Jews. Of roughly 6 million Jews in America in the past, Conservative, with close to 2 million, was the largest, and the Reform, also nearing 2 million the next largest, the rest being unaffiliated or Orthodox. However, recent surveys, including the CJF Survey, have shown that probably over 50% of Jewish people today are completely unaffiliated, classified or termed as "Jews for Nothing". Why? Because when asked on questionnaires or surveys what they belonged to they usually checked "Nothing". They have sadly been dubbed "The Jews for Nothing". Should they be allowed to drift off into the mist of assimilation and anonymity?
All the religious denominations today realize it is imperative to reach out to the unaffiliated. Since some communities dwindle and others sprout up, it's always necessary to welcome new members and families of a community. The most dramatic outreach efforts have been done, perhaps, by the Orthodox. But today the Reform and Conservative movements are dedicating their resources and manpower to reach out to unaffiliated Jews. In fact, the Reform movement has a purpose of reaching out to the non-Jewish members of intermarried couples. And now the major federations realize that they would also like to be a part of these kinds of efforts via the Jewish Continuity Commissions and Task Forces. This is only a beginning. Much remains to be done.
The last thirty years has seen an explosion of activity emanating from Orthodox circles, attempting to reach out to unaffiliated Jews, and meeting a certain demand as well. Vast international efforts have been undertaken by such organizations asChabad-Lubavitch, Ohr Somayach International, Aish Hatorah, and the National Jewish Outreach Program, as well as many, others, lesser known and of smaller scale, but no less ambitious.
In spite of all the efforts, and in spite of all the hooplah and hype of reaching out to unaffiliated Jews from whatever sector of life, the fact of the matter remains, the vast majority of Jews are being lost to assimilation. Further, the fact of the matter is, if one looks at numbers, there are literally millions of Jews spread over thousands of miles of the United States and at most there are one to two thousand full-time outreach professionals. Yes, there are rabbis running shuls and communities. Yes, there are rabbis running day schools and yeshivas. But there are few who can spend their time on reaching out to the unaffiliated. As with everything else, there are mass market outreach appeals and there are approaches that recognize individual efforts. There are speeches to large audiences, but to be effective, a more personal, one-on-one approach is called for.
TheJewish Professionals Institute was established in order to meet the unique Jewish educational needs of Jewish professionals with little or no formal Jewish education. A professional staff of college-educated Jewish outreach professionals has come together to provide a sophisticated beginner's level Jewish and Hebrew education.
Even though there is much activity in Jewish outreach today, it is only a fraction of what is needed and theJewish Professionals Institute takes its place in the vanguard of those organizations, large and small, that are fighting the battle against Jewish ignorance.
The average professional usually has a practice, a doctor or lawyer several hundred clients. During the course of the week, a professional probably deals with several dozen clients.
In Jewish outreach it is no different. TheJPI takes a "professional's" approach. It is realistic. We have a "client base" of hundreds of students that attend our various classes, programs and functions. On a weekly basis, we deal with large numbers of people. Each organization, like each professional practice, has its own client base that it services and provides for. In reality what is required is chains of tens of thousands of private practices of Jewish outreach in order to reach all of our people out there.