Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I Can Identify

You know no one love/hates talking 'identity' more than I do. So I was thrilled to find out today that I was invited to take part in a sure to be provocative conference coming up this spring. It's called 'Rethinking Jewish Identity and Jewish Education' and it aims to bring together an eclectic group of people (that's why they asked me!) to think our way out of this identity quagmire.

As conference co-chair Jon Levisohn blogged earlier: Enough Identity, Already!

From the conference call for proposals:

The concept of “Jewish identity” has been fundamental to post-war policy discourse and scholarship on Jewish education.  With the possible exception of “continuity,” identity (and the attendant fears of its disappearance or weakening) has driven more philanthropic initiatives and educational policy than any other single concept.  
Yet recent research has exposed the problematic nature of this concept.  The combination of strong identity and low engagement, as demonstrated by the recent Pew Report, suggests that the very concept of Jewish identity can no longer shoulder the burden of Jewish educational efforts. The time has come to reconsider the notion of “identity” as the desired outcome of Jewish education.
Standard uses of “identity” by Jewish educators and policy-makers fail to capture the complex ways in which people understand their Jewish commitments, engage with Jewish communities, and enact Jewish practices.  
Approaching identity as an outcome offers a mismatched measure of Jewish education and poorly describes the various and shifting ways in which people live their Jewish lives.

Damn straight. 

The conference isn't until the end of March, but I can't wait!

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