As “Boomers” approach the end of their midlife careers and seek new paths to meaning while facing unprecedented challenges, Jewish leaders and communities should figure out how to engage them and their skill sets, resources, idealism, time and energy.
For the past few years, David Elcott — of The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU — and I have worked to change the conversation about aging in the Jewish community. We have also explored the implications that this conversation has for the sustainability—and, we hope, strengthening—of the community.
We recently released a national survey and analysis based on what we describe as a more connected group of respondents than many other studies, including last year’s Pew study, A Portrait of American Jews, or most local demographic surveys. Our initial goal was to explore the four cohorts of Jewish adults — Millennials, Gen X-ers, Baby Boomers and The WW II/Greatest Generation. As we dove into the data, we encountered additional insights that shed light on the challenges facing the Jewish community in terms of its near and longer term sustainability as a minority community in America. (An overview of the key findings appeared in eJewishPhilanthropy and is available here.)
Our mission at B3/The Jewish Boomer Platform is to engage—or re-engage—Baby Boomers in Jewish life and to do so with attention to inter-generational issues and connections. After completing this report, we are even more convinced that the Jewish community will benefit from a more open-minded, flexible, timely, collaborative and relevant response to the impact of aging and to the unprecedented challenges and opportunities Boomers and others face in the current cultural landscape. Change and exploration are not limited to those in their twenties. In fact, as you will see in the report, change is all around us, and exploring and learning continue even after one turns 30 . . . or 50 . . . or 70, for decades into the future.
I am pleased to share the report with the wider Wexner network. I figured that as robust and optimistic leaders, you’d welcome our view that there is an upbeat side to aging. I hope that new ideas and new models of engagement might grow out of this work. There’s a need for new approaches and a new ordering of priorities that values investing in all age groups.
Stuart Himmelfarb, a Wexner Heritage alum (NY/Seagram), is the CEO and co-founder of B3/The Jewish Boomer Platform, a non-profit initiative whose mission is to engage–or re-engage–Boomers in Jewish life. Stuart also serves as President of The New York Jewish Week and was the Chief Marketing Officer at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey—an encore career. He is currently a Senior Fellow in Faith-Based Civic Engagement at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Stuart can be reached at email@example.com.