Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Klal Perspectives

Readers of this blog will most likely be very interested in a new publication that has sprung into existence with a strong initial entry, Klal Perspectives:
Klal Perspectives’s goal is to provide the Torah community with a forum to address and debate the major issues confronting the community today. We envision a quarterly journal in which a diverse group of rabbinic and lay leaders will share their varying perspectives on a given topic in each issue, with an eye to not only describing problems but also pointing to possible solutions. Input from the broader community will be sought and published as well, in order to broaden the discussion and enlist as many talents as possible in developing strategies for the future.
The mixture of people they've enlisted on this first issue is rather impressive, particularly considering the difficulty in drawing submissions for a first-time publication such as this (as the editor noted to me via e-mail). The journal wisely asked three questions to the writers, and let them decide where to go from there. I've had a chance to read a couple of the pieces so far, and they were fantastic.

In particular, it is heartwarming and comforting to see that this will not be a publication dedicated to either sugarcoating the problems we face as a community nor bashing individuals, organizations, or groups - nor is it unafraid to look at new approaches and to correct accepted assumptions and approaches which may no longer work as they once did (if they ever did at all). In short, it is genuinely and properly dedicated to solving real problems for the long-term rather than complaining about the ones we currently face.

One especially excellent essay is by Moishe Bane, on the Unintended Consequences of Compelling Strategies. He discusses briefly but thoroughly as examples three "representative topics" which are worthy of being addressed, including:

  • The Decline of Fatherhood - the increasing lack of fathers taking a major role in the education of and involvement with their children's lives and education
  • The Consequences of Isolationism - and how attention should be paid to "the impact that has had on both the broader Jewish community and on the frum community itself".
  • Communal Infrastructure - my personal favorite.
A choice quote: 
Attendant with the expansion of the population and its affluence, local educational and service organizations have blossomed – but without coordination or objective consideration of communal priorities or implications. At the forefront of communal failures has been the virtual absence of even the effort to engage in deliberate, long-term planning, except in extremely select, localized instances. Despite the increased sophistication and affluence of the Torah community, communal decisions are made incidentally and with virtually no accumulation of data or infrastructure expertise. At the same time, the community confronts increasingly complex and serious social and educational challenges – challenges which are expected to grow.
Similarly, the community fails to engage, or even encourage, efforts at evaluating community priorities or eliminating duplication and inefficiency. Institutional transparency and economic and programmatic accountability remain elusive, as even active and influential philanthropists decline to impose such basic expectations on the beneficiaries of their largess.
The ability to recognize these issues and how they must be analyzed will be key to solving these issues, and the new journal seems dedicated to doing so, and doing so properly. In the original questions, the journal takes for granted that there simply is a large lack of empirical data to go on from which to design the future, and asks what data needs to be gathered to be successful. This is absolutely the proper approach, as data is the backbone to understanding what exists, what is real and what is perceived, and what is realistic as we try to move forward as a klal.

I wish the journal much success and look forward to its future, and suggest readers sign up to receive their quarterly journals. I believe it can have a strong positive impact on the Jewish Community's future, both in the short-term and especially in the long-term.