Book of Genesis
November 4, 2016
There was a sign that used to hang in my office opposite my desk. It read, “Plan Ahead, It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Built The Ark.” Good advice then, even better advice now!
“God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all living beings, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them: I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark. . . .” (Gen. 6:13-14)
Why did God feel compelled to tell Noah to build an ark? Couldn’t God have personally rescued Noah from the ravages of a flood? Or was it Noah’s inability, or unwillingness, to heed the apparent warning signs that caused God to intervene on his behalf. In either case, the decision to “plan ahead” kept alive a new hope and vision for the earth.
On a much different level, the survival of the synagogue today depends on the willingness of Jewish community leadership to give serious attention to the wants, needs, and hopes of the Jewish millennials (roughly those currently between the ages of 18-34).
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, director of Big Tent Judaism (formerly the Jewish Outreach Institute), did a study this past summer to learn more about the experience of being Jewish among Jewish millennials. Here is a snapshot summary of what he learned:
a) The Jewish community has felt unwelcoming. These experiences make millennials more cautious of further involvement with the organized community and institutions like synagogues.
b) Many millennials describe themselves as grappling with contemporary Israel and social justice issues. They feel there is no place for them unless they march in lock step with the Jewish community’s political agenda.
c) Synagogues are not adapting to meet the expressed needs of this generation.
d) While millennials might continue to celebrate Jewish holidays, they choose to do so outside the framework of a synagogue.
The above are just a sampling of the winds of change blowing across the horizon of Jewish life. Now is the time to address these winds before they become a torrential storm. Most importantly, “Plan ahead, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark!”
Rabbi Howard Siegel