I just landed in Detroit for a Detroit Federation initiated conference called: Think Tank: Rebuilding Jewish Communities by Attracting & Retaining Young Adults. It’s innovative in its subject and in the way it came together, ground up out of Detroit and in cooperation with other mid-sized communities. There seems to be a great crowd attending–CEO’s, line warriors, foundation professionals–I’m looking forward to doing alot of learning on how we can build on our partnership with @JewishCleveland (where I’ll be Tuesday) and grow @presentense into other mid-size Jewish communities around North America.
Tomorrow I’ll be participating in a panel with @moishehouse, @birthrightNEXT, The Schusterman Foundation @CLSFF. I’m jazzed that Jerry Silverman from @jfederations will doing the moderation. In his email to the panelists, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit CEO @ScottKaufman pointed out the crux of the issue in a way that was hilarious and sad all at once: ” Normally a gathering like this focuses on Engaging young people. The twist here is that many of the communities gathering have an issue that is a prerequisite to engagement; namely how to attract and retain young people. For if we lose all our young people our only viable engagement strategy will be Mahjong tournaments.”
Scott’s point is well taken. I’m skeptical as to whether any of the organizations represented will provide the gathered with a satisfactory answer to the attract question. We all know the solution is tied up in so many factors not in our hands, first and foremost the job market. That said, I’m thinking of the following few headlines around the attract question — directions that may be useful. I’ll flesh them out on my panel but I hope to discuss with other participants in the leadup tonight.
1) Let’s not focus on a specific solution, but rather on building a framework for solution creation and a marketplace for good ideas:
2) Let’s forge a smooth and effective partnership between the established Jewish Institutions and the solutions that might emerge from the field
3) Ala the above, let’s make sure that people who want to better Jewish Communities know exactly what their options are for entering, partnering, leveraging, and getting lift from the established institutions
3) Let’s NOT invest more resources in young leadership as it is currently formulated, nor in purely social gatherings and events. Let’s keep those funded as is and instead devote incremental resources to some more experimental directions that will complement existing YL
4) Let’s do some business and social enterprise innovation within the Jewish Framework — let’s embrace being a startup nation outside the borders of Israel too!
5) Let’s start telling the stories of the positive publicly on all possible channels