Dr. Sherry Israel is a social psychologist, who was a member of the faculty of the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University from 1991 until her retirement two years ago.  She has been on the faculty of the Wexner Graduate Fellows/Davidson Scholars Program Winter Institute since 2000.  She can be reached at israel@brandeis.edu.

A number of years ago, one of our daughters and a friend were hanging around in our living room, and I joined them.  Somehow, the conversation turned to the topic of marriages, and what makes them last or fall apart.  Dick and I had been married longer than Melissa’s parents (she was a first and only child). She turned to me and said, “I don’t know how people stay married to the same person for such a long time.”

Turning to respond to her, I had one of those “Very Wise Moments” that all parents wish we had more of.  Without thinking about it very much, I replied, “What makes you think we are the same people we were when we got married?” 

People change.  In a marriage that works, the partners don’t just tolerate these changes, they actively welcome them, adapt to them, see them as positive challenges and opportunities for enrichment. This isn’t always easy; our resistances may be deeply rooted, our habits stubborn.

What holds for marriages, so also for organizations. It is a truism that the world in which our Jewish organizations are situated is changing, sometimes very rapidly.  The Jewish community, our Jews, are also changing – our demographic patterns, use of technology, religious and spiritual yearnings, relationships to organizations, comfort with non-Jews, place in the wider world.

Jewish organizations that drag their feet, resisting or denying change, will not thrive.  Those that welcome it, embrace it, are invigorated by it, will last.  As in marriage, this isn’t simple, but it’s essential.