We are proud to publish our fifth annual “36 Under 36” special section in this issue, highlighting the achievements of a diverse group of young Jews — including artists, educators, social justice activists and philanthropists — making an impact, and a difference, in our community.
With so much concern about whether Generation Xers and Yers will maintain their ties to Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people, we believe it is important to underscore the good works of a group of young people who are expressing their identity and commitment in so many different ways. This year we found individuals building bridges to other communities — an interfaith group of Muslims and Jews, Yeshiva University students conducting science experiments for public school children in their Washington Heights neighborhood and a New York University club connecting students with Israeli tech companies. It’s reflective of a tendency among their peers to look beyond the interests and activities of what they perceive to be an overly parochial community.
Sociologists, demographers and communal leaders have different outlooks on the American Jewish future, based on their research and observation. There are those who paint a bleak picture, pointing to an aging and shrinking population, buffeted by assimilation and indifference to things Jewish. Others note the proliferation of creative Jewish start-ups and the positive influence of Birthright Israel on a whole new generation as signs of hope for the future.
In the meantime, please read the inspiring profiles of this year’s group of “36,” the number inspired, in part, because it echoes the concept of the Lamed Vavniks, the 36 righteous people on whose merit, according to tradition, the world survives. Each in his or her own way is expanding the reach of chesed, or good deeds, in our society.