OMG, the Forward reported on September 10 that research conducted by the Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies among 1200 interviewees concluded that "[A] majority of American Jews feel attached to Israel and the overall level of attachment has remained stable for nearly a quarter of a century." Further, as Forward reporter Gal Beckerman wrote: "The study...did show generally lower lower levels of 'connection to Israel' among those younger than thirty...these numbers are not surprising. Every generation goes through a normal 'life-cycle...' which grows as people get older; in similar studies over the past 20 years, these researchers say, the ratio of younger people who don't feel an attachment to Israel has remained constant. Instead, the research points to a steady number: the 63% of all respondents who say they feel 'very much' or 'somewhat' connected to Israel and the 75% who say that Israel is an important part of their identity." (emphasis added)
This is a Hillel-Shamai debate of sorts. You have Beinart and his ilk citing Luntz surveys that young people in America care less about Israel today and, now, a broader survey evidencing that they care...as much as previous generations. Beinart, of course, expresses pessimism because the Brandeis survey would in many ways undermine his narrative; the leaders of the Brandeis research find many reasons for optimism.
The implications of the Brandeis study seem obvious -- all of the hand-wringing about the "NextGen" might have been for naught. Our federations and JFNA, rather than arguing that this generation "having no direct connection to the Holocaust, the birth of the State, the Six Day War" and more, and, therefore, need new connections, "events" like Tribefest (which JFNA, in its way, claims in a story in JTA that it already has 1,600 "registrants" even though no Registration was possible at the time of the story).
There appears to be no comprehension at JFNA that the emerging generation of men and women who will be and, in so many instances, are our leaders are serious, caring people. So, failing to understand, the leaders of JFNA pander and engage in frivolous activities without meaning or real purpose. "If we build it, they will come" seems to be the operating mantra, never defining what "it" is, what "its" purposes are beyond numbers. So, while JFNA plans casino nights and Las Vegas "events," never is there time to plan activities that connect a younger generation or two to our communities. At the GA's end, Jerry Silverman described a "focus group" process where unaffiliated young men and women were asked, apparently, what might be attractive to them -- from this emerged...Tribefest. Yet, I have seen a list of topics for the GA that a group of the best and brightest of the same generation suggested -- a list that was sent to Jerry long before the final GA program emerged. These were serious topics from serious people. Not one of them made it to the GA Program.
No, the extant leadership would rather believe that the rising generations have no connection to the things we care about. That belief, apparently, justifies toilet-training fund raising and activities and "events" irrelevant to their growing commitment and seriousness. JFNA if it continues with pandering, sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, will drive these leaders away while believing that there is value in numbers alone.
They never learn.