To have more than 150 people of incredible quality and with great stories nominated on the Jewish News and Jewish Leadership Council’s Thirty Under 30 list is a great story in itself. Women make up half of our list, as they should, based on the votes of 50 people who made up the voting panel.
UJS and our youth movements continue to be great places to develop leadership and there is continuity of involvement into adult organisations. Limmud continues to be a core factor in the continued involvement of many no longer studying and no longer professionally employed by the Jewish community.
There are more Jewish organisations employing more young people than in times gone by. However, maybe, as in the large professional legal and accountancy practices, it is easier to be visible, and have time for involvement, working in smaller Jewish organisations then in larger ones.
Reflecting on some names who were on the Jewish News Twenty-Five Under 25 list of two years ago but are not on this list, and also on comments by panellists on the Thirty Under 30, there are some real concerns that the community might wish to consider.
When one ceases to study, there are not enough options that allow some of the brightest and best to continue their involvement unless employed by the community or involved in Limmud.
While new names do emerge, most of the Thirty Under 30 are people who have been involved through youth movements, UJS, Limmud and their communities all their lives. There are existing opportunities for development open for those that have been involved for a long time already and also for those relatively recently involved, including Birthright, MASA and Adam Science.
However, the youth movements and UJS peak in their involvement at 16 and 18/19 respectively. After this, many good people drift away. The peak age group at Limmud is people in their 20s, but most who get involved in Limmud do so for maybe for a year or two at most.
We have a generation of innovators and incredible creativity. Social media keeps people in contact but on low maintenance. One big challenge is how we enrich our community by solving this conundrum and making it easier for more Jews to do exciting things they themselves can organise and run that fit into their busy lives.
The challenge is also to those millennials, digital natives, who don’t find models of involvement in the current Jewish community, either in partnership with existing organisations or independently, to invent, create or mould engagement that fits them.
People need and appreciate a label and recognition. While these lists are fun, it seems if people have a title in an organisation or are on the leadership group, they feel empowered and more committed. I would challenge all communal organisations not just to find ways to bring more young people into their leadership but also to find them finite worthwhile projects or tasks that they can take on within the time they have. I also encourage our community with young people to find new models of involvement for those in their 20s and to fund the initiatives.
I would like to thank the Jewish Leadership Council for supporting this. It continues to do great work, often quietly and behind the scenes. Its support for leadership development through LEAD but also through RESHET and PAJES is a vital part of the future of UK Jewry. Over the past 15 years I have watched the JLC, of which I was a founding member, go from strength to strength. So much that happens in our community is because of it.
υ Andrew is chair of the UK Programme of UJIA and took on the chair of Limmud in his late 20s.