PITTSBURGH (Nov. 11)
A new initiative and direction in American Jewish concern and commitment was called for today by Irving Blum of Baltimore, chairman of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds’ Task Force on Jewish Identity. Blum called for the creation of a special institute, the sole purpose of which would be to carry out innovative projects designed to enhance the quality of Jewish life.
Addressing 1,500 delegates from 300 Jewish communities in the United States and Canada attending the opening breakfast session of the CJF’s 40th General Assembly at the Hilton Hotel here today, Blum, a CJF vice-president, presented a consolidated report climaxing the two-year study and work of the Task Force, viewed by delegates as a landmark in the Jewish federation movement. Blum urged the delegates to act upon its recommendations embodied in a resolution to be voted upon tomorrow.
The resolution calls for the establishment of a new program under CJF auspices to experiment and develop new models for strengthening the quality of Jewish life in America. The program, tentatively called the “Institute for Jewish Life,” does not intend to duplicate nor compete with existing organizations but will cooperate with them. An initial limited lifespan of three years with review there-after is projected for the program which will range across the total fabric of Jewish life and emphasize action projects in local communities.
All projects undertaken must have the potential for local implementation. Minimum national cost of the program will be $350,000 for the first year, $450,000 for the second year and $550,000 for the third year by the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds. A supplemental sum of $900,000 is to be sought over the first three years from selected foundations and individuals. In addition to this national budget, the direct financing of local projects by individual communities, with national guidance and evaluation, would be a critically vital part of the program.
EXPERIMENTATION. INNOVATION KEY
Emphasizing that these elements do not offer a finished program, Blum said “Our object is to provide a framework within which the basic thrust of the Task Force recommendations–namely, a call for experimentation and innovation–can take place in order to produce the basic changes that will reshape our Jewish community life. The tool is the ‘Institute for Jewish Life’ and these recommendations provide a perspective of program and money to give it a cutting edge.”
Blum noted that the Task Force, consisting of 44 communal leaders, rabbis, educators, academicians, sociologists and students, reflected in its composition “the same diversity of attitude and opinion encountered by it all over the country.” Blum stated that through its massive accumulation of information, the Task Force thoroughly explored the realities and motivations in every section of the country.
The CJF board of directors approved the recommendations of the Task Force last September in NY following slight modifications incorporated in the document under consideration at the Assembly. Blum said the Task Force is saying in effect that “It is time for us to look back on what we have been doing, to where we have been deficient and to look toward the future in an effort to reshape our Jewish communal life, so that it is more relevant to the problems we face in the decades ahead.”
He said the recommendations would provide the means for developing “a thrust and a movement that has now welled up all over this continent.” In his concluding remarks, Blum said “we must and we can build a house of Judaism to withstand the violent turbulence of our time with both storms of alienation and detachment and its aimless apathy. The Task Force report meets this challenge head on because it creates a unique and effective tool with which to do the job.”