Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Going beyond the “Jew Do’s”

The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies out of Brandeis University in Waltham Massachusetts conducted a study this week, on the way Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni enact their Jewish identities once they return home. The twelve of us seated around the table all presented varied views on the post trip programming we have come across and how we feel about those experiences provided by organizations located in and around Toronto.

The names of the most commonly known organizations certainly were mentioned from the Birthright Alumni Committee (BAC) itself to (JUMP) The Jewish Urban Meeting Place, The House, The Annex Shul and even the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC). Beyond the names mentioned what I was most surprised about was how many hands remained down when the group was asked if they have participated in the types of programming they offer. Among the top reasons why some alumni have refrained from participating in event around town, the cookie cutter “Jew Do” parties have left a significant impression of a polarized clichéd/clique like atmosphere on the minds of the alumni. A limited opportunity for networking occurs in such an atmosphere and many feel at this point they have been there and done that. Cultural learning and mainstream activities such as JUMP’s cooking classes, affordable Shabbat dinners and The House’s challah baking and Saturday night Jam sessions for aspiring artists, seem to be more and more in demand.

Sure everyone likes to cut loose every now and again, the big parties are still a staple, however, a lot of people are now developing greater interests in programming that can advance them personally and professionally. For health and wellness a growing popular outlet is JSPORT with its volleyball and softball leagues of Canada Israel Experience alumni and other Jewish young professionals. On the professional side of programming BAC organizes its Bay St. breakfast series with leading executives sharing insights on how they rose to prominence from all walks of industry life. Be it a breakfast with the CFL commissioner Mark Cohon or Anton Rabie Founder and CEO of Spin Master Toys tips are shared on how to round out your life and maintain a Jewish identity within the multi-cultural melting pot of Canadian life.

Beyond Hillel’s programming for mass consumption on campus, there is also Impact Toronto formerly UJA’s Young Adult Division (Yad) and for the more specialized communities such as the city’s Russian youth there is I’m a a full description of which can be found by clicking here.

What is lacking on the part of most organizations, and frankly the second most popular reason why many members of the focus group have yet to participate in their programs, is a lack of stylized subject headings on e-mail blasts. More creative subject lines that encourage the recipient to open rather than trash or simply disregard messages for weeks on end would elicit a better response. Right now they figure it is the same information time and again which has yet to speak to their specific interests. For a taste of everything fresh and to receive updated information on City Wide community events you are sure to enjoy just click here.

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