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Commentary from Leading Jewish Thinkers

The JCC Movement Statement of Principles for the 21st Century is simply outstanding. It is significant not only for its relevance to JCCs but as a document which presents a profound vision for Jewish life. By not searching for the lowest common denominator, yet being acutely aware of the realities of Jewish life, it both challenges and inspires.
Phrases such as “engaged lives of meaning and purpose,” “Jewish identity is a unique and individual life-long process,” and “locus of learning and celebration,” take the Jewish conversation to new heights and depth which transcend most of the educational programming currently undertaken within the Jewish community.
We desperately need “a new public square for convening important conversations” about the content and direction of Jewish life. A movement which is aspirational and which fosters pluralism both in theory and in practice is uniquely situated to serve as such a public square and to lead the conversation.

—Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, Shalom Hartman Institute; Director of the Engaging Israel Project

The new JCC statement of principles takes a central institution in all of our lives and moves it forward to a new century with new challenges, challenges that must be met with an enhanced sense of Jewish values, Jewish meaning and Jewish community. Because you cannot be a Jew alone, the JCC continues to make Jewish living and learning in the presence of the community robust and vital. The new statement of principles affirms it.

—Dr. Erica Brown, Author and scholar-in-residence for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Your document is a wise focus on the increasingly heterogenous Jewish community and an equally wise focus—among other things—on the signficiance of learning which can help unify even a diverse, heterogenous community. So that even as we become a broader people we can still maintin the values which have long distinguished Judaism, while finding innovative ways
to communicate them to the world.

—Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

The vision of the 21st century JCC is superbly captured in its name. A center for the growth of Jewishness and community in all their complementary diverse manifestations.

—Rabbi Reuven Kimelman, Brandeis University

The JCC Movement Statement of Principles for the 21st Century ensures JCCs, already gems in so many communities, will continue to offer cutting edge, creative programs of Jewish learning, making them “the most exciting Jewish place in town.”

—Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Emory University

It’s a beautiful document, one which reminds me of why I so deeply respect the JCC Movement and so appreciate the work done by JCCs. Expanding access, enriching experience, creating community, and using Jewish to help all people live with greater meaning and joy—that is how the next great era in Jewish life will be built, and it’s what JCCs do, at their very best, each and every day.

—Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, President CLAL—The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

The JCC vision and statement of principles for the twenty-first century is right in so many ways. It grasps the changed nature of Jewish organizations. In the not-too-distant past, the role of Jewish institutions was to organize Jews to fulfill their mission within the bounds of the inherited culture of the organization. Today, Jewish organizations and synagogues have to transform themselves into platforms that mobilize individuals to self-organize and express and explore their identities within the mission of the organization. Personal exploration is the pathway to appreciating the value of Jewish community. This is a paradigm revolution and the JCC is once again in the vanguard.

—Rabbi Hayim Herring, Founding Director of Synagogue Transformation and Renewal (STAR)

For more than a century, JCCs have been a vital part of the American Jewish story. With this bold statement of principles, the JCC Movement again demonstrates its readiness to meet the needs and aspirations of a changing population in a changing world, while holding fast to and deepening its commitment to Jewish values and tradition. JCCs recognize that even in our individuality and diversity, there are threads that unite us: a quest for meaning and purpose in our lives, and a desire to connect with others, both intimately in our own communities and around the globe.
These principles position the JCC Movement to play a key role in twenty-first century Jewish life as a setting where Jews can come together to learn, celebrate, converse, and do good, thereby finding personal satisfaction and strengthening the fabric of community that is at the heart of JCCs’ mission.

—Dr. Jonathan Woocher z”l, Chief Ideas Officer, JESNA; Director, Lippman Kanfer Institute