Every significant institution has declined in its ability to shape events and been replaced with… well nothing really. Power has become easier to get, but harder to use or keep.
Moises Naim, The End of Power
The Jewish community is experiencing a power transition! Driven by factors well beyond the boundaries of the Jewish communal system, this transformational moment is resulting in a change of the power equation and status of many of the core institutions of American Judaism.
The ingredients associated with measuring institutional power include financial capacity, membership reach, brand recognition, organizational credibility, and historic imprint. Among the “threats” to Jewish organizational standing involve the rise of new competitors, the decline in membership strength, the downgrading of financial resources, and the weakening of bandwidth. The realities of these structural changes are directly tied to some of the major generational and broader cultural shifts we are experiencing as a society. At this time, religious denominational bodies are encountering particular challenges in holding members and in maintaining their bandwidth.
There are however those institutions that we can identify as growth-based organizations, benefitting from a highly relevant agenda, a strong leadership base, and an aggressive fund development plan. Among them, the ADL, as a result of its high-profile agenda in fighting anti-Semitism and JNF (Jewish National Fund), in connection with its capacity to effectively pivot by focusing on environmental concerns and rebrand itself to reach new constituencies.
As demonstrated in the chart that appears below, we have experienced a fundamental reshaping of the Jewish communal order. Considering the power quotient, where each of the factors described above come into play is contributing to the recalibration of the Jewish marketplace, we are observing power transitions occurring where legacy institutions have given way to emergent or boutique organizations.
The Jewish organizational model is shifting due to generational choices, changing cultural and political priorities, and shifting economic interests. This has resulted in a structural revolution creating a whole new paradigm of Jewish institutional power. Over the course of the 21st Century, we are likely to see the continuous transformation of the Jewish communal roadmap, as both the pace and scope of institutional change will further recalibrate the power standings of Jewish organizations, as new competitors enter the market. Among the unknown factors will be four key ingredients: the economy, the state of the Jewish political condition, generational behaviors, and cultural influences.
|KEY FACTORS: JEWISH COMMUNAL PRACTICE
|“TRADITIONAL” COMMUNAL MODEL (Legacy)
|“EMERGENT” MODEL OF COMMUNAL PRACTICE
|Timelines: Transitions will be faster as we move forward driven in part by technology and social change
|100 years 1885-1985 The First American Jewish Revolution
|30 years in Formation 1985-2015
The Second American Jewish Revolution
|Social Media and the Emergence of Alternative & “Virtual” Community
|Indifference to Leaders The Rise of Self-Empowerment
|Collective Vision: Holocaust/State of Israel/Jewish People as Defining Themes
|Individual Perspectives: Post-Modernism: Cultural/Spiritual/Personal
|Collective Engagement: Federation-Synagogue Model
|Personal/Sovereign – Self/Privatized Judaism
|One Product Fits All
|Global Shift from Power–Centered to Knowledge–Based Communities
|Power-Centered Institutions (AJC-AIPAC)
|Knowledge/Skilled-Based/Specialized Organizations/Single-Issue Constituencies (MAZON-JWW-AJWS)
|Inverse Shift: From National–Global to a Local–Global Orientation
|Global Jewish Network System (Federations-Jewish Agency Connection)
|Rise of Emergent Local-Global Partnerships
|Ideological Loyalties and Institutional Differences
|Social Divide: Class, Race, Culture Religion and Nation/ Strong Institutional Loyalties
|Ideological Differences Dissipate among Liberal Religious Groups/ Rise of Political Divisions: Loss of Communal Consensus and the Collapse of Civility