It is with much hope that we present to the public this introductory issue of Klal Perspectives.
Hope – that this publication will generate productive and thoughtful discussion, as well as practical ideas, that will strengthen the Jewish People and the Torah;
Hope – that it will provide a healthy forum for diverse opinions and complementary perspectives, offered and argued with both passion and respect; and
Hope – that the discussion in these pages will always represent a sincere effort to identify the truth of מה ד’ אלקיך שואל מעמך, what Hashem seeks of us.
The goal of the journal is to provide the Torah community with a forum to address and debate the major issues confronting the community today, with an eye towards practical solutions. You can see more in our mission statement here. While we ourselves felt the need for such a forum, we were encouraged and energized by the enthusiastic responses of the many local and national leaders with whom we shared the idea.
In this introductory issue, we sought simply to frame the discussion. We asked our contributors three general questions (see Questions) that we felt would help set the agenda for subsequent issues, where we could more methodically and productively focus on specific challenges. Based on their responses, we intend to move forward initially with three issues dedicated to the following three critical topics:
Local and National Communal Leadership: Many analysts of communal challenges identify the absence of central leadership bodies as being a major handicap to addressing these challenges. The community’s institutional infrastructure is growing but without an overall strategic vision. In areas such as education, for example, the sense of community responsibility for its members is decreasing as more institutions are created for niche markets. Communal values and educational choices are increasingly driven by overwhelmingly powerful national grassroots trends. Given the state of Jewish unity, are there practical steps that can be taken to developing stronger and more centralized leadership, locally and nationally?
Connectedness: Arguably, one of the contributing factors to teenagers and adults dropping out of Jewish life is a lack of personal connection to Hashem, to the rabbis, and to the community. This seems to plague all parts of the Orthodox world, from modern Orthodox to Chassidic. What tools – old and new – do we have to enable people to feel connected, spiritually and communally? How can we introduce these tools into our school and shul settings, both formally and informally?
The 21st Century Orthodox Family: The contemporary American Jewish community is experiencing a major change in the traditional marriage dynamic. While the traditional Torah family structure anticipates the husband as the breadwinner and the wife as the homemaker and mother, both the husband’s and the wife’s roles have been altered by a variety of influences. These include the large number of young men who delay or discount playing the role of the family’s primary breadwinner and the concomitant call for women to support their husbands in Kollel, Chinuch or advanced education; the economic pressure on women of all ages to contribute financially to meeting basic family expenses, including tuition; and the interest of young women to assume roles outside the home. What are the consequences of this shift, and what can or should be done to address it?
Contributors to these issues will be solicited from a range of communal leaders. We invite your participation by sharing with us your thoughts, including signed letters to the editors and proposals for articles. We look forward to broadening the discussion to include many individuals without formal positions who have much to contribute and can offer different perspectives.
We close with the prayer we are all to recite as we enter the Bais haMedrash:
יהי רצון מלפניך ה’ אלקי ואלקי אבותי שלא אכשל בדבר הלכה וישמחו בי חבירי ושלא אומר על טהור טמא ועל טמא טהור ולא על המותר אסור ולא על האסור מותר ולא יכשלו חבירי בדבר הלכה ואשמח בהן. גל עיני ואביטה נפלאות מתורתך