Thursday, December 28, 2006

Five Ideas for a More Jewish America

There are many rich Jews in America who would like to engage in a meaningful Jewish charity. At times it is difficult for them to know how to go about doing this. I want to make some suggestions. Since I am not involved in any institution and I’m not asking for any money, I feel I am somewhere on the road to being impartial. I believe that one of the big problems in American Judaism, outside New York, is that there is no place for Jews to meet. I’ll discuss this problem in terms of Chicago. But what is true of Chicago, is true in dozens and dozens of cities all across America.

A Jew who is not religious or does not attend synagogue on a regular basis can not rely on religious services to provide something of a Jewish social life. There are only a few alternatives. One can belong to a Jewish country club or one can belong to the Standard Club downtown. Both are rather expensive and, in the case of country clubs, it only works if you’re interested in golf and having frequent meals at the club. A non-davening Jew who is not interested in golf has a problem. The way the problem is solved is that people and couples meet one-on-one. Here’s the way it goes…you ask your wife, let’s say today, if she would like to go out with the So-and-So’s; she says yes. She calls. Mrs. So-and-so says, “Yes, Let me look in my daybook. I’ll be away for the holidays and then I’m booked for the first two Saturday nights in January. What about the Saturday night after that?” Twenty minutes later, after daybook meets daybook, they have penciled in March 12th.

The problem with young people is even more serious. How does a young man or woman in the city of Chicago meet someone their age that is Jewish? Even if one is willing to go to a bar and try one’s luck, there are, to the best of my knowledge, no Jewish bars on Rush Street or anywhere in the city. The Federations have funded, in a very generous way, the JCCs. As far as I can tell, these community centers are being used by children for swimming and by older women for mahjong and card games. Middle-aged people, between 18 and 78, fall through the rafters. The Federation having funded the JCCs is not about to cough up big bucks to solve this problem.

I propose a five-part solution:

Makor everywhere…Michael Steinhardt was onto something very important when he bought a building in mid-town Manhattan and dedicated the space solely to young people to meet, hang out, watch movies, etc. Makor has become an important part of the social lives of young single Jews in Manhattan. A similar project should be started in Chicago and across the country. It would be a great success. I estimate the cost at around 1-2 million plus annual expenses of around 100 thousand, maybe less depending on location. Some of the events could be self-funding. Creating such spaces nationwide is the single most important thing that can be done to help young Jewish people get married.

Coffee houses…Jews who would like to talk to other Jews have no place to meet. Coffee houses, even pubs are the solution. It is particularly important to have some such space for the western, southern and northwestern suburbs, where Jews are really isolated. The entire city can be covered with six-seven establishments. They would contain Jewish magazines, newspapers, some political and cultural events. There could be debates, discussions, readings, movies, etc. These places might run at a slight deficit but the total amount should not be a big number. If Starbucks can get rich, these places should be able to get close to breaking even.

Develop a Jewish mall… There is no shortage of iffy strip malls. A real estate person who has a penchant for good deeds should buy one and put in 10 Jewish retail spaces. A restaurant, a book store, and stores that are not so obvious, maybe one of the coffee houses mentioned above. Borough Park in a mall. I would get a secular restaurateur of some renown, to develop the restaurant. Let’s face it; Orthodox Jews should not be in the restaurant business. It should be kosher but not visibly so, thus attracting all segments of the population. In Chicago there are many places you can find a Talmud lecture. People love to shop. Try finding a pleasant Jewish shopping experience.

A restaurant downtown …Subsidize if necessary a good kosher business- restaurant downtown. Here again Jews need a space to meet. Jews around the country want to know they can travel to a city and find places to eat. The lack of such confidence keeps Jews close to home. Chicago’s Jewish life would benefit from more Jewish visitors.

Cultural events… Create a serious cultural events program similar to the 92nd street Y, but with a somewhat greater Jewish focus. The emphasis would be on the frequency and quality of events. The goal would be to get Jews out of their easy chairs for something worthwhile that isn’t a simcha or a fundraiser. Different synagogues and organizations sponsor events, but they are infrequent, uncoordinated and all too often uninteresting. One of the main problems with American Judaism is that it has a tendency to boredom. A dynamic cultural series requires planning and funding. If done right it could revitalize the Jewish life in a city.

I see that Skokie is building a Holocaust Museum at a cost of $42 million dollars. In L.A. the Wiesenthal Center raises hundreds of millions of dollars. YIVO, Yad Veshem, the History Museum in NY, the Holocaust Center in Washington all manage to raise large amounts of money to celebrate and remember dead Jews. It is easier to raise money for backward looking charities than for forward looking life affirming strategies. I do not even want to speculate why dead Jews are more popular with big donors than present and future of Jews.

There is so much to do. There is so much money out there. The world and even the Jewish world is awash with cash. Funding Jewish education requires hundreds of millions, maybe billions. ($ 10,000 per child x 12 years x 100,000 children =12 billion.) The projects I mentioned make a noticeable difference for a couple of million.

Why, with so many Jewish apparatchiks is there such an absence of utopian thinking? Why is American Jewish life both complacent and pessimistic? Everyone has their own answer. I attribute this triad of ‘everything is ok, nothing can be done, the future is grim’ to the wholesale abandonment of the utopian left by American Jews. The great grandfather might have been a socialist-anarchist. The grandfather was a FDR Democrat. The father was a Scoop Jackson Democrat. The son is a neo-con Republican. The grandchild dreams of Goldman Sachs.


At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You propose things for out side of New York that will work for places like New York. Come on! Perhaps Chicago isn't the best analogy.

What about Tulsa or Tuscaloosa or Tacoma? These cities all have Jews, but no one with 1.5 million and 100 k a year in operation cost.

What about Sacramento or San Antonio or Seattle? These are larger cities with bigger Jewish communities. They seem to have thriving -if small- external Jewish life both in JCCs and congregational life. They have pretty high affiliation rates as well.

EJ- These aren't ideas that are going to work. But I do dig on the Socialist Utopia idea...fits perfectly with your Strip Mall Judaism.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

liberal jew...calling my utopian proposals Strip Mall Judaism is a low blow. Basic to pragmatism, both metaphysical and in areas of social planning is to work with what you got.Remember Rumsfeld's
'you don't go to war...'

In Chicago we have lots of money and a weak communal life. Your Sacremento type cities that have a communal life that is working properly don't need my proposals. What is the problem? In poor cities, the real estate costs would be much lower, the Jewish population would be more compact. If your point is there might be cities too poor to pay for anything...maybe. What is the relevance for the many places that could do something?

My proposals, and others in this genre, are not all or none. Utopian thinking doesn't preclude marginal, incremental changes towards a larger goal. In fact, pragmatism would suggest the only way to utopia is one step at a time.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your Utopian Goals open the door to wonderful names like "Strip Mall Judaism" when you propose to create Jewish Malls. (Really it wasn't a stretch) You have presented two very separate concepts.

One- the Makor Model Two - Commercial Judaism.
I believe a little Utopia can be found. I also believe it’s not mutiually exclusive to commcialization. Shocking I know.

But the main idea here is that a majority of communities need something. Yet is it totally against your concept that Jews will find each other if they want to? I think so…I know for sure that Jews in places like my “T” cities need something. Tulsa is a great example because one of the funders you site lives there and funds the city. Lynn is a wonderful woman who works hard in the name of the Jewish people. But if she wasn’t there, I to believe there would still be a JCC and Jewish communal life…it just wouldn’t be a pretty.

Jews who want to be Jewish will find each other. Infrastructure is nice, but not really necessary. We tend to make it when we need it.

Sorry for the low blow. Liberal Jews are still needed by the way.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

liberal jew...I know you feel we disagree but it is not easy for me to figure out exactly what’s bothering you. You seem to believe Jews will meet if they want to without infrastructure. My five ideas are all infrastructure ideas; your feeling is I am concentrating too much on bricks and mortar, which is no substitute for real interactions. It is true I run a lot of things together, so I’ll take them one at a time. Young people need a space to meet. It is horrendous out there and many young people are ashamed, or whatever, to go on the internet. Second, there is real loneliness in Mid-America. The lack of community is a major cause of many of the intermarriage problems. The absence of an address, where one has at least a chance of meeting somebody to talk to or listen to, is a cause of the loneliness. In Chicago, I can start walking from Evanston to Kenosha, Wisconsin, fifty-five miles away, and encounter… maybe… twenty people, hence, my coffee-house-mall ideas. The culture part is not a brick and mortar idea, but is based on the intuition that liberal Jews find Jewish life boring and need events that stimulate their interests.

At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evanston: Great Ideas. How come our communal leaders who get paid for trying to ensure Jewish continuity can't think out of the box?

lawrence kaplan

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off I have no problems with your ideas, I just wanted to point out the fact that you are percribing a meta-solution to mirco-problem. Living with a person who did live in the middle of america (not the burbs of Chicago) I do understand that solitude.

I have visited her hometown and know first had that the Jews are pretty much gettin' together to hang out and be friendly; be it in a kosher coffee house, movie thearter or simply at eachother's homes.

First off I have no problems with your ideas, I just wanted to point out the fact that you are prescribing a meta-solution to micro-problem. Living with a person who did live in the middle of America (not the burbs of Chicago) I do understand that solitude.

I have visited her hometown and know first had that the Jews are pretty much gettin' together to hang out and be friendly; be it in a kosher coffee house, movie theater or simply at each other’s homes.

I like the idea of a Makor in every town. But I don't think you are hitting the point: The Jews Need Pride. Period end of story. Pride and culture. I like your cultural activities aspect. I like you food aspect. I even like your utopian consumerism aspect. I just think you are creating a structure and 'one-shoe-fits-all-Jews' model.

This like Mobius' anarachy infrastructure "system," is great for large Jewish centers. Please tell me otherwise.

At 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry for the double post...but please ignore the first 2 paragraphs...went to spell check and forgot to delete

At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

heard of chabad houses??? now, they are everywhere!

At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Steve Brizel said...

I am fascinated by your out of the box ideas. However, even out of the box ideas require some thinking as to how edgy they should be-take a look at the supplement to this week's Jewish Week for what IMO are some loony ideas.

IMO, spending another nickel on Holocaust studies and centers, etc is a collosal waste of money and communal resources. A Jewish community that spends money on such resources is in effect saying to future generations that knowing the names of ghettos and extermination camps which translate into the conclusion that death and destruction are the essence of Judaism, as opposed to the positive basic core Jewish concepts such as Shabbos, Pesach and familiarty with core Jewish texts.IMO, Holocaust education promotes an ersatz Judaism that cannot promote an authentic and lasting Jewish identity.

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous lolich said...

"I like the idea of a Makor in every town. But I don't think you are hitting the point: The Jews Need Pride. Period end of story. Pride and culture."

I wouldn't presume to speak for the baal habayit but I don't think EJ means to ignore pride as a factor. It's simply as we loyal yiddish vort readers say "der apetit kumt mit dem essen". The interaction of jews in a communal setting builds pride! The role of landsmanschaften & the like in the preservation of jewish identity can hardly be overstated & although times have changed ,perhaps they havent changed that much. What we need is a strong dose of good old fashioned tribalism.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

Dr. Kaplan...can't or won't? There is nothing in what I wrote that is 'far out';anyone who just looked around could and would come up with similar common sense ideas. I think it's because rabbis will never lift a finger if it does benefit attendance at their synagogues. Orthodox have their hands full funding the yeshivot. Federation people are reluctant to think up new ideas that cost big money, since they would have to take the money away from other causes.

It underscores the importance of developing a class of public intellectuals, Jews beholden to no one other than the Jewish people.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

liberal jew/lolich...lolich restated some of my underlying reasoning in a vivid way. In the thirties there was a more Jewish atmosphere in America because everyone lived next to/'on top of' each other, thus creating natural Jewish spaces. If I wanted to raise the intellectual tone I would start quoting Jane Jacobs and the almost infinite literature on the problems of suburban sprawl.

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see what you are talking about took some time but I wanted to see what you were getting at.

The Meta/Micro is still an issue but I like the ideas of creating Yiddishkite in our homes and even our Jewish Srip Malls.

Sorry if was too harsh - it got lots of people talking though.

At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll have to extra careful to make sure the Jewish Date Mall is not infected with actual Jewish religious content. After all, its ideal is to unite us around something other than Judaism itself.

And, hey, if the good food and good times are good enough, non-Jews will flock there, too. Just as they do to the better JCCs.

At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey. Makor is a great idea, and I've enjoyed the couple times I've been there. But I think it would be nicer if there was a way that young people could get together to do something rather than just be entertained. Something like the Jewish Outdoor Club is a step in the right direction, and something like a Jewish Dancing Club might be even better.

But what would be better than both would be something that had a higher social purpose. For example, a Jewish-tutoring center, where Jewish professionals make their "know-how" available to struggling kids or even college students. (Let's face it: We all have more education than we know what to do with.) Now of course people can do all these things on their own, but then you lose the sense of purpose and comradeship which is so important. I once did inner-city tutoring, but it was a lonely (not to mention futile) experience, and I soon gave it up. But if there had been a whole group of dedicated people, maybe it would have been a different story...

At 10:24 AM, Blogger ashuber said...

This was a great post! I think the idea of a Jewish strip mall could definitely work. In Hollywood, FL there is one particular strip mall with four kosher restraints, a kosher grocer, and a Jewish book and gift shop. When I go there I see lots of Israelis and Jews without yarmulkes. In fact, most of the kosher restaurants I go to in Florida are mostly filled with people who at least don’t outwardly appear religious. This is because they are not obviously kosher. There aren’t pictures of rabbis and Magen Davids on the wall (except the pizza and falafel places). I am surprised that a city like Chicago with a Jewish population of around 350,000 has so little in the way of places for Jews to meet outside of synagogue. I think your idea of a Jewish mall is like the new Shtetel updated for the new millennium.

At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting concept. I wonder why you see the need for charitable dollars to fund some of the ideas as they are really commercial ventures. For cultural/educational/social events, if there was sustained interest, these could take place at synagogues, temples, JCC's or Spertus. These could benefit from charitable dollars, but they need relevance that would attract people to them. There are some Jewish businesses in the area that could go into a strip mall, there is certainly a need for a good kosher restaurant or two, but would they be viable commercial ventures. If not, then why should charitable dollars subsidize something that can't succeed becasue the public doesn't support it. That said, as a retired fund raiser, I'd be glad to research funding sources if you want to undertake a feasibility study. BTW, I met my wife, as well as many other lovely Jewish singles thru online Jewish dating sites.

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Steve Brizel said...

EJ-In Europe, Gdolim such as RCS or the Baalei Mussar and Chasidus were the closest thing to "public intellectuals" -beholden to noone but the Jewish people.In an ideal world, Gdolim would constitute that unique class of people.

Like it or not, the web allows for simple Jews, the educated and not so educated, the observant and not yet observant, to engage in a public discussion on issues that need to be discussed, as opposed to being either neglected or placed underneath other less worthy subjects.

At 12:07 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

anonymous 9:54 (AND 5:17)...I agree but for a different reason. If people feel they are being manipulated as part of a prosletyzing effort to become more frum they will stay away. I hate to say this but IMHO the people who show up at Lubavitcher events are somehow unrepresentative of Jewish singles.

bio skeptic...3 wonderful ideas. I am confident that if people who have something at stake thought about what they want and need , many more ideas would be forthcoming. My question is where does one go, where is the depository? Twenty four LEADING Jewish organizations and no one home.

ashuber...Ah Chicago, wonderful place to live, droopy Jewish community. In the Orthodox segment there is a second explanation which is more ambiguous. Chicago charedi are basically Litvish/yeshivish, not enough Hungarians, and few Polish/galitzianer. Litvish are not into fancy stores, glitz or bling bling. It's Torah, Torah, Torah all the way down.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

anonymous 11:36...I did'nt suggest charity money for the mall idea. I dreamt of a developer.I even think I know the guy...check out the new McCormick frum office bldg. I agree with you that cultural events don't need a building...they need an organization. Mentioning Spertus is like the magic word on the Groucho show...I begin to rant, and lose all control. I won't even start.

The other question you HAVE about charity money for rest. was raised before by Sefardi Lady. IMHO the need for Jewish spaces are like public goods that need govt. funding when the market doesn't take care of the issue, say police and fire.The funding is small, start up costs, maybe for the kashrut part.

Mazal tov on meeting your wife online. The tsara is that young people think it is a shanda to go on jdate, and my space etc. is bad news.

At 6:45 PM, Blogger Harry Maryles said...

A Jew who is not religious or does not attend synagogue on a regular basis can not rely on religious services to provide something of a Jewish social life.

I think this is key. If one is not religious, and does not attend synogogue at all… or has no other connection to Juadiasm except that he identifies as a Jew, why should he or she care if there is a Jewish social setting for him or her? Why not just participate with general society in the social scene?

While this may be a problem for those of us who want Jews to re-connect with their Jewish heirtage and become more observant..which would stem the massive hemorrhaging of Jews from Judiasm, it should not be a problem for someone who isn’t observant who doesn’t care about such things.

In fact I think current intermarriage statistics bear out the fact that indeed most Jews don’t care.

I do not therefore believe that any of your suggestions have any real merit. Why spend tens or maybe hundreds of millions of dollars on social settins that do not promote anythin remotely Jewish. In my humble opinion, if one wants to creaate a social environment for unaffiliated or non practicng Jews the best way to do so would be through the many Kiruv organiations that already do so. For religious Jews, the need can be filled by already existing Shul functions and other religious groups one can participate in such as HaPoel HaMizrachi or Agudath Israel.

I would however agree that there is not enough of that in the Frum community. There should be a lot more being done to facilitate social settings whereby people of all ages can meet, for those seeking marriage whther 18 or 82. But more a Jewish Mall?! I don’t think so.

At 12:59 AM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

Rabbi Maryles…we disagree in so many ways. Kiruv organizations are relative to what is happening ineffectual. After taking into account the Jews who become not frum, kiruv is a slight positive, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. There are maximum 2 million Jews who are Orthodox worldwide, 11 million non –Orthodox. They are assimilating rapidly. Yet it bothers you that a rich person might help stabilize Jewish life in ways that do not involve becoming Orthodox. Why? You say because these Jews don’t care if they are Jewish. What about the 50% that don’t intermarry? What about Conservative Jews where the rate is much lower? What about the 600,000 secular Israelis in America, who are not intermarrying at the 50% rate. In belittling any and all proposals other than kiruv you are basically saying you wash your hands of the problem. And btw why do you assume the 50% intermarriage rate is a given. Maybe it can be brought down to 40%. Maybe there are ideas out there that would do a little something for those who have already intermarried.

Everyone, even Conservadox and MO have a problem finding marriage partners. The only people who would not benefit from Makor are the charedim, who use shadchanim. Most MO Jews and certainly all other denominations would benefit from a cultural program. Do you really think it would be so terrible to hear some Jewish personality other than an Orthodox rabbi give a talk…maybe a Jewish/Israeli movie or dance company…maybe a klezmer group or a political debate or a comedian? The mall is an idea for a developer. No one is forced to go. Before you rain on anything other than davening and learning ask your wife if she thinks it’s a good idea. And finally other than the fact that you might not need a place downtown, other Jews, even charedim need a place to eat, do business and meet.

I believe you attitudes are representative of many if not most in the Orthodox community, and I think it is an education, I would say an eye opener for Jews of every denomination to read views like yours and how your genuine concern for the Jewish future finds concrete expression. I have a hunch the biggest Orthodox concern is that such ideas will succeed, and will create spaces where ALL Jews can meet.We are back to austritt...Orthodox should mingle only with Orthodox.

At 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Makor idea is great - but I think the cost estimates here are far far off...the yearly programming costs for staff and events - and the costs of an attractive large property in a ritzy area of town are many times the proposed estimates.

But I agree that this could be done if it was made a major priority of donors or institutions - but it is by no means at the trivial costs you propose, except maybe in Tuscaloosa:)

Kudo's though for putting your finger on a solution that is an essential one to reach the majority of the unaffiliated!


At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are several ironies and inaccuracies in your characterization of YIVO as an institution that is well supported financially (it isn't) and that is simply concerned with 'remembering dead Jews' (a paraphrase). YIVO was founded in 1925 in Vilna as a secular Jewish institution concerned with the culture and history of the Yiddish language and the lives of Yiddish-speaking Jews around the world.

The irony that this organization was (and continues to be) specifically attractive to young "non-davening" "progressive" Jews should speak for itself.

That history and the holocaust should have altered the nature of YIVO's mission, audience, and collections does not alter what it fundamentally is. Which brings me to...

It is also grossly unfair to compare the Skokie Holocaust Museum to YIVO from a collections perspective. YIVO , which is a library and archives and not a museum or memorial, holds thousands and thousands of artifacts, documents, and other pieces of weird bizarre interesting and illuminating ephemera. I do not know what the source of Skokie's collection will be, but surely it cannot compare with these hundreds of collective years worth of collecting.

Anyway, just wanted to chime in. No disrespect to you, your opinions, the Skokie Holocaust Museum, Skokie, Evanston, or otherwise-----

At 6:38 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

anonymous 4:06...many if not all of these institutions have archives that are of great historical value. They all have some function. I am aware of and have benefitted from the work of YIVO.I apologize for my unintentional error in suggesting it is well supported.

My explanation for putting them in the list is this my great sadness and dismay yiddishists have not and are not playing a positive forward looking role in Jewish life. Young or old they are fixated on the past, refuse to combine with Hebraists and are overly concerned with linguistic purity that is not part of the living frum yiddish in use today.The archive is spectacular, current yidish culture is frozen when it should be fluid.Where are these yiddishists when they are needed in the CURRENT battle for the hearts and minds of nondavening progressive Jews. Has there been a yiddish play produced in the last 100 years that was not kitsch and over the top sentimental? Is it really impossible for yiddish to be COOL, without mournful violins in the background and a silent movie campy feel?

Sorry for being so said the magic words yiddish and progressive.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Ultimately, as American Jews becomes more and more American, a cultural connection is not enough to maintain the connection to Am Yisrael and a Jewish (read: religious) connection is needed.

That said, I would like to see more young Jews meeting, greeting, and most importantly marrying. Ideally, the synagogue or temple would be the nature setting for this. But, for the non-religious, there isn't much pulling them into the synagogue, and, quite frankly, I can't blame them. Young Jews want life and connection, rather than death and destruction, which is what the dearth of holocaust museums, memorials, lectures and more seem to provide. Unfortunately, conservative synagogues and reform temples seem to do more of the same.

Having a place for non-religious Jews to socialize, meet, and hopefully marry is a start. But, if I was going to invest my money in such an idea, it would need to be combined with an agressive campaign promoting marriage, giving guidance, and promoting tachlis for a conclusion. Dating sites like JDate have faciliated the meeting of many young religious and non-religious singles. Having a network of active shadchanim devoted to networking and guiding the non-religious crowd that wants to marry Jewish, or can at least be convinced to give dating Jewish a try, would go a long way I believe.

I have some former co-workers that are non-religious who would be more than happy to marry Jewish. But, they need more than a place to meet, they need someone actively helping them meet and guiding them towards conclusion. And, I'm sure there are many more like them.

While I have expressed some concerns with the shidduch system in the Orthodox world. . . . I think an introduction of such a system for the Reform and Conservative crowd would only be positive!

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I believe you attitudes are representative of many if not most in the Orthodox community, and I think it is an education, I would say an eye opener for Jews of every denomination to read views like yours and how your genuine concern for the Jewish future finds concrete expression. I have a hunch the biggest Orthodox concern is that such ideas will succeed, and will create spaces where ALL Jews can meet.We are back to austritt...Orthodox should mingle only with Orthodox."

I think this is wrong. It's the austritte mindset kicking in knee-jerk, with no thought. It's not due to fear of what will happen when orthodox mingle with nonOrthodox.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

sephardi lady...I wholeheartedly agree with your observation that Makor places as well as Jdate be combined with a shadchan system. I have given this topic some thought. You know there is a mini business in Jdate coaching.But how to do it...the It's Just Lunch model or Saw You At Sinai? The issue is the younger the person the more uncool a shadcan system appears.The field is wide open and could use a little bit of market research as to venue.

Your hope that temples could serve as a place to meet doesn't face up to the economies of scale issue. A shiduchim mechanism needs a large inventory of candidates, which are not available at temples. Even medium size cities are too small. The beauty of Chicago, NY, LA is that they can serve as regional centers.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

I agree with you that regional centers are needed. I imagine the yenta type shadchan would be more than unappetizing to the younger non-ortho crowd. A marketing campign to sell the cool and modern shadchan would have to be a must. (Incidently, are there even marriage and dating workshops in the non-ortho world?).

But, ultimately, singles without guidance and a community of helping hands are lacking am important ingredient, and I think it is as essential to the product as flour is to cookies.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Janet said...

I found this post while looking at Jewish blog nominations, so I'm coming to the conversation a bit late.

Your proposals sound good, but I would start off smaller scale by bringing active organizations for young people that other cities have, but Chicago does not have: Geshercity, Mosaic or another Jewish outdoors club, 20's-30's clubs. I googled, and it looks like there was an attempt around 2001 to start both Geshercity and Mosaic, and these didn't get off the ground.

It seems like the Chicago Jewish community may be less strongly identified. The coasts have plenty of Jews who consider themselves non-observant but have strong Jewish identities (and might even keep kosher) who would come to the cultural events, but it seems like there are fewer in Chicago.

I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps Chicago has more Germans who have been here longer and are more assimilated?

It does seem like there are some interesting Jewish cultural institutions in Chicago: Nextbook, Kfar Center. Others?


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