Since the mid-1990s, the JCC Movement has articulated a vision “to maximize the use of the programs and services, the position in the community, and the accessibility of the Jewish Community Center to welcome all Jews, to help each Jew move along a continuum of Jewish growth, and to build Jewish memories.” Nearly twenty years later, the changing landscape of North American Jewish life prompts us to present this new JCC Statement of Principles for the 21st Century.
In every generation, the term “Jewish community” has taken on new meaning as Jews have adapted their lives to changing circumstances. In this generation, unprecedented freedom of choice from where to live or work and whom to befriend and/or marry, from how to identify oneself and whether or not to raise a family, and even the definition of family, has vastly transformed the nature of Jewish communal life and the JCC Movement.
The JCC’s post-World War II goal of recreating Jewish urban neighborhoods in suburban settings was designed for a community that was largely homogeneous. Today, however, that monolithic community has evolved into a new reality where individual Jews move freely in and among multiple communities, identify themselves in various ways, and hold diverse views on many issues, including Israel. We must change if we are to remain an asset to the people we aspire to serve. We must acknowledge that Jewish institutions, JCCs included, must evolve to meet people’s needs in entirely new ways.
So what is our responsibility to a community that is increasingly diverse, geographically dispersed, and arguably more discerning than any that has gone before? Can JCCs offer this diverse people a set of services that is relevant, accessible—and financially sustainable?
Why the JCC?
The JCC’s heritage and assets uniquely position the organization and movement to be successful in serving contemporary Jewry. Our name reflects this: we have the ability to create a sense of belonging that is infused with meaning for a community of individuals. The JCC has the greatest reach of any Jewish communal organization, and has the capacity to support individuals’ and families’ aspirations to engage and to learn. We already develop and offer rich programming that is both place-based (i.e., JCCs, camps and preschools) and portable (not contingent on bricks and mortar), responding to the increasing geographical dispersion of Jews in many metropolitan areas. Now, embracing our collective diversity and accepting our constituents as they are, we are, and can continue to be, their partner as they grow as people and Jews in the 21st century.