Steven Windmueller
Is it Good for the Jews?

A Thanksgiving Moment: Reframing the American and Jewish Story

Managing a Broken Society: As we experience this Thanksgiving moment, we realize the health challenges and economic struggles of so many in our country, even within our own community. Just as individuals and families face hardships, so do many of our most valued institutions. Our government, in consort with the nonprofit and business sectors, must develop a joint commitment to healing our nation. We must demand that our leaders act collectively in responding to food insecurity, homelessness, and unemployment. We will require a coherent plan for moving our nation forward.

 Essential Conversations: It is imperative for our community to open conversations that bring Jews with divergent political views together. Identifying common values, promoting shared beliefs, and celebrating our collective American and Jewish identities represent the critical focal points toward ensuring our future. We have a mutual stake in strengthening our communal voice, as we collectively fight anti-Semitism, garner support for Israel, join in healing the political divisions within this society, and help forge a national agenda. The future of the Jewish community is dependent on our understanding and promoting our common bonds! Our nation, as well, is in search of a shared vision.

Civics Education: Whether in our religious schools, day schools or other settings, our mutual task is to infuse the alignment of our American civil values with our Jewish tradition. Across the nation, it is of essential importance that we commit to educating our citizenry on American civic principles and practices. Our democracy depends on an informed and engaged constituency!

Community Connections: The rebirth of Jewish community relations and intergroup dialogue will be core to our collective American story moving forward. Finding a shared language and identifying joint political interests with other civic, ethnic and religious constituencies is central to our communal agenda. Our political voice requires committed partners in the complex and challenging tasks ahead.

Building Trust: We are about achieving outcomes that will enhance the interests and welfare of American society.  With so many feeling a loss of trust in the instruments of governance, how do we embrace a broader marketplace?

  • Promoting Institutional Excellence: The tasks ahead will require that the institutions of our society perform! The credibility of the public square will be tested as never before. 
  • Developing Leadership: The essential part of regaining trust will be about the character and substance of our leaders!
  • Celebrating Transparency and Accountability: Can the structures of government prove their value and regain the public’s credibility?
  • Engaging Citizens in Problem Solving: How might we engage the public in helping to actively and creatively assist the instruments of government in the resolution of the many societal issues before us? This now becomes our collective responsibility.
  • Advancing Social Inclusion: Can we cast a broad net inviting those who still sit outside of the public square into the public tent?
  • Creating Partnerships between Government and the Other Layers of our Society: We need to move beyond the notion that only government can solve problems and embrace the proposition that we require a collective voice of religious actors, ethnic players, and business practitioners in the management of our national story and its future.
About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
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