CHICAGO (May. 16)
“The weakening of a sense of identity among American Jews can only be countered by strengthening the Jewish family and building a strong Jewish community.” That was the assertion of Arthur Rotman, executive vice president of JWB, at that organization’s biennial convention of the Chicago Marriott Hotel.
“A majority of American Jews are uncommitted and unaffiliated,” Rotman said. “Jewish community and continuity today are threatened by the increasing rate of intermarriage The children of these mixed marriages are in particular need of the community’s attention.”
Rotman singled out the Jewish Community Center (JCC) as the one institution in American Jewish life that can best deal with these problems. “Many otherwise unaffiliated families and individuals who seem to reject any direct involvement in anything Jewish do become involved in the center. For many, it is their only connection with Jewishness.
“Similarly, the Jewish Community Center is the one connection that many intermarried families and their children have with Jewishness.”
PROBLEM OF JEWISH EDUCATION
Turning to another key problem, Rotman said that “less than 40 percent of Jewish children receive any kind of Jewish education. Even among those who do, a recent study shows that Jewish education alone is not enough to build a sense of Jewish identity.
“The Jewish Community Center provides reinforcement to the more formal Jewish educational institution. It is also a primary place of Jewish learning for many of the more than 60 percent of our young people who receive no formal Jewish education.
The JCC “is not in competition with the synagogue and the formal Jewish school. It complements the synagogue and the school. But more important, the JCC reaches a significant portion of the community not reached by any other Jewish institution,” Rotman said. He noted that unlike other Jewish institutions in this country, the Jewish Community Center is native to America. The first one having been established in Baltimore in 1854.
Rotman said that Israel, Europe and South America have “imported the JCC” as on institution able to build Jewish communities.