Respect Your Boomers

December 5, 2013

Last summer, a Jewish professional in Northern California named Michal Kohane appeared on the website eJewishPhilanthropy, where she bemoaned what she saw as the Jewish community’s excessive focus on young adults. In a cry from the desert, she asked why there was no longer any interest in the Jewish welfare of those over 40.

In a dig at Birthright, the beloved engagement vehicle that features a free trip to Israel for Jews in their 20s, Kohane memorably wrote, “Building a sustainable community can’t be just about paying for buses full of young people in hopes they will make Jewish babies.” Then she added: “We need to be what we’ve always been: a family. A whole family.”

Kohane’s initial article prompted a long stream of responses, hinting that she had touched a nerve. But the day after her post appeared, Kohane was fired from her job at the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco. This week, a new article by Kohane appeared in eJewishPhilanthropy, in which she described her earlier performance as “raw” and “flamboyant.” But she reiterated her basic point:

Boomers, “the largest generation we currently have in our community” and “the bracket that gets most of the demands,” are not being invested in as a group, “even though many are just coming into their Jewish awareness, making first steps towards peace with exploring that part of their identity.” In other words, according to Kohane, boomers are†also Jews on a journey, along with children and young adults and seniors, all of whom make up the “Jewish family.”

While Baltimore appears to have more programming focused on boomers than most other communities, we believe that Kohane’s observations and comments have prompted a discussion that is worth having. Whatever Ms. Kohane’s real agenda might be — and we recognize that there are those who are critical of her — she has sought to further the dialogue on a website that went live last week called “ReJewvenate.” It is set up as a networking hub which is designed to strengthen existing programs and encourage new ones. It is a place to share ideas, make contacts and seek opportunities. And, to its credit, ReJewvenate presents a welcome opportunity for boomers to talk with themselves and others about their own generation.

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