People are still connecting, just through different ways

BY J. J. FLOTKEN

This year the world celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Jewish State. Most would agree that the Israel of today looks quite a bit different than the homeland of 1948. Forty years from now, the world and our St. Louis Jewish Community will celebrate the Israeli centennial. Again, chances are our homeland and local Jewish community of 60,000 will have made significant transformations. The only constant in today’s world is change. We must all constantly adapt to the changing world as the world adjusts to us.

My passion for Judaism and particularly the Jewish community of St. Louis runs core deep. As a result, I put a great deal of my energy towards learning and discussing how our small St. Louis Jewish world will change between now and 2048. Many in the larger Jewish community associate the “Next Generation” with words such as assimilation, secularism and intermarriage. Some paint a bleak picture of Baby Boomer offspring as independent loners who require instant gratification and have little to no connection with Judaism and the State of Israel. I strongly disagree with this pessimistic point of view. I believe our different forms of expression have led to misinterpretation, and that our young Jewish community is as vibrant, energetic and passionate as ever.

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My experiences through the Jewish world have enabled me to interact with experts who have a solid grasp on Jewish cultural trends, shifts in interest and the generational dynamic. These individuals point to solid data which indicates a shift in generational interest and modes of connecting. This is different, but certainly does not signal an end to our Jewish way of life; simply its continued evolution. No generation precisely mirrors the one before nor will it reflect the ones to follow.

Our community is ripe for change. Selfless “more experienced” philanthropic leaders have assembled the financing, energy and commitment necessary for the “Next Generation” to make this community its own. Jewish Federation continues to be our community leader with large scale young leadership engagement. A variety of philanthropic endeavors such as the annual Grosberg Award and the recently announced Rubin Mission to Israel send a strong message to Young Leadership that we do matter.

The next step towards adaptation involves stronger inter-generational dialogue, mutual understanding and adaptive engagement.

Generational silence will only force the “more experienced” leaders of today to build our future for us. It is our job as young leaders to find passion in our community. It may exist in synagogue, St. Louis Israel Connection (SLIC), GesherCity, Torah and Turf, Young Professionals Division (YPD), Hillel, a virtual world, your home, or an entirely fresh, new outlet. Wherever it may live… let’s create, lead and build our generation’s St. Louis Jewish community for 2048.

J.J. Flotken is president of Young Professionals Division of Jewish Federation and an employee benefits consultant at The Todd Organization. He is engaged with community organizations such as College Bound St. Louis, Sons of Bosses, Zeta Beta Tau – Beta Gamma Trustee Panel. Flotken lives in Clayton with his wife Angela and daughter Taylor.