JInsider recently launched the $100 Million Idea, a brainstorming program for the Jewish future. The premise: Imagine you have just won the lottery and will donate $100 million to the Jewish community in 2010. What would you do with it, and why? We received such incredible responses that we wanted to share another one with you this week. Check out other thoughtful responses at jinsiderblog.com and tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creating a “Jewish Journey”
If I had $100 million to donate to the Jewish community in 2010, I would create and invest in a “Jewish Journey” program. Jewish Journey would provide a long-term, holistic approach to encourage younger Jews to participate in Jewish life from early childhood through adulthood. The program would allow participants to choose their own adventures from hundreds of different initiatives and create their own unique Jewish Journey. The goal would be to foster a new generation of Jewish leaders.
To facilitate this initiative, I would collaborate with established organizations to fund existing programs and would finance innovative idea labs, such as Bikkurim, to create new initiatives that could be incorporated into the program.
Throughout their Jewish Journey, participants would connect to one another by a virtual Jewish community. Using state-of-the-art technology, this social network that plugs into existing platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) would engage younger Jews from diverse backgrounds. Through grassroots, viral campaigns and specially created applications, participants would urge others to join.
To keep younger Jews involved, we must introduce them to Jewish life at an early age. Jewish Journey would work with programs such as PJ Library, Jewish pre-schools, day schools and Jewish summer camps. It would build on the success of programs like Birthright Israel and would work to expand Birthright Next to ensure that the 250,000-plus Birthright alumni stay involved in the Jewish community upon their return. Jewish Journey would also fund long-term Israel experience programs such as OTZMA and MASA, which enable young Jews from all over the world to spend a semester to a year in Israel on any of 160-plus programs. It would work with Israel study abroad courses on college campuses; Hillel and its 251 affiliated Jewish student organizations on 513 campuses; Jewish service initiatives such as Panim; and educational programs such as Limmud.
The critical stage of the Jewish Journey program would be keeping the Jewish connection alive after college. When many young Jews graduate, they leave this structured environment and become involved in careers and are less likely to remain active Jewishly — perhaps only to rekindle that connection if/when they have a family. Jewish Journey will allow young Jews at this decisive stage of life to choose how to take their Jewish Journey to the next level, whether as a lay leader in a program such as The Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership, or as a volunteer for a Jewish organization. They might also join study groups or clubs — virtual or in-person — or work on service projects. They might even choose to work in the Jewish world. The Jewish Journey online platform will act as a clearinghouse for their Jewish lives, keeping them connected with their Jewish peers and offering them a vast number of ways to stay involved and move into leadership roles.