By Diane Sloyer (UJF CEO)
The Jewish community has a rich history of leadership, with visionary individuals who have played pivotal roles in shaping its culture, values, and progress. Our local Jewish community of today, in particular our Federation which is celebrating its 50th year, was built and shaped by these visionaries.
The role of Gen Z, the generation born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, will be critical in leading the Jewish community as we move forward. Gen Z is marked by its diversity, resilience, and social consciousness. Growing up in a rapidly ever-changing world, Gen Z has been shaped by a variety of experiences, from the digital revolution to global challenges including climate change and social justice movements. Gen Z can have a significant impact in revitalizing Jewish engagement.
Many Jewish organizations, including Federation, are grappling with issues of declining membership and waning interest among younger generations.
However, Gen Z has shown a strong desire for meaningful connections and a sense of purpose. Our Federation and those throughout North America are poised to meet this challenge. Gen Z is highly diverse, including diff erent cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. This diversity brings a fresh perspective to Jewish leadership, challenging traditional norms and encouraging inclusivity. Gen Z's willingness to embrace diversity can help create a more inclusive and welcoming Jewish community.
Jewish Federations of North America’s JEDI (Jewish Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) initiative was launched several years ago and continues to grow showing Federation’s commitment to the diversity of the greater Jewish community. During COVID and continuing today, Jewish Federations of North America launched Change Makers Fellowship, a program for 20–25-year-olds. Today over 2,000 participants have graduated from this leadership development experience designed to expand career options, network, and, most importantly, propel the desire and ability to eff ect positive change in one’s community and the world at large.
Here in our community, Federation, in partnership with the JCC, is running a 6-session teen immersive leadership program this summer called Noded (wanderer). This program will be led by UJF's Shaliach (Israeli emissary) Yoav Yaron. To obtain more information, go to www.ujf.org/noded.
Many members of Gen Z have grown up in a time when the Israeli-Palestinian confl ict has been a prominent issue in the media and public discourse. Engaging Gen Z in thoughtful and respectful conversations about Israel and its place in Jewish identity can foster meaningful dialogue and help shape a more nuanced understanding of this complex issue within the Jewish community. As the Jewish community looks to invest in our future, The Jewish Education Project, a non-profi t organization in New York City, established RootOne (rootone. org). RootOne LLC helps thousands of Jewish teens travel to Israel each summer for a once- in-a-lifetime experience and provides $3,000 vouchers toward the summer teen tours.
In addition, Yoav Yaron joined the Bi-Cultural senior trip to Israel as the lead educator and will spend more time in the BCHA high school next year. This generation has grown up in a more multicultural society, with exposure to diff erent religions, cultures, and traditions. Many Gen Z Jews have interfaith backgrounds, and they bring a unique perspective on Jewish identity and engagement. Gen Z's intercultural experiences can foster greater inclusivity, empathy, and understanding in Jewish leadership, enabling Jews to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and build meaningful relationships across religious and cultural lines.
We look forward to the future and the great impact that this group will have on our Jewish community.
A Letter From UJF's Chief Executive Officer by Diane Sloyer appears monthly in The New Jewish Voice.