Several years ago,, while on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism, our Department of Jewish Family Concerns developed programming that has evolved into Jewish Sacred Aging. One of our motivations was the observation that our community was aging. We saw the coming of the Baby Boomers and began to see the shifts in affiliation patterns and a greater openness to taking part in what some have called the “spiritual marketplace”. Well, that wave of aging Boomers has now become a reality.
Last month, the Pew Foundation published a study that looked at the demographic trends within the religious communities of USA. There in print was the reality that the American Jewish community, at present, has over 50% of its population over the age of 50. That not too distant future is now here. Every Boomer alive is now at least 50 years of age, with that 1st wave of Boomers now embracing 70. As we discuss regularly in our workshops and on Boomer Generation Radio and on Jewish Sacred Aging podcasts, this cohort is bringing interesting changes to our community. Many of you are familiar with the social and economic changes brought about by Boomers, the spiritual ones, however, do not get enough attention.
Certainly, within our community, this aging cohort is helping re-define American Jewish life. Interestingly enough, Booomers’ counterpart, Millennials, are equally engaged in restructuring our community. Both seem to be hungry for community, although not necessarily the traditional synagogue community. Both seem confortable in experimenting with bringing various interpretations and religious forms into their Jewish experience. Both seem to sense that the electronic/digital age can be a help to them in expanding their Jewish identity and educational quotient.
What is also of note is that slowly, very slowly, the organized institutional community is realzing that this longevity revolution needs attention. Many fear that it may be too late to “capture” this cohort of aging Boomers. Yet, a key continues to be quality adult oriented education, socialization and a willingness to discuss key issues of life, death, meaning and legacy. Certainly these issues continue to be of great importance in the conversations we have with congregations and organizations who consult with us.
Yes, the Jewish world is changing and Boomers are very much a part of that change. We would be VERY interested in your reaction to these realities and welcome contributions of ideas as to how we can continue to grow this site. We welcome your thoughts.
Rabbi Richard F Address.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.