Of course, service doesn't only pertain to youth. The 2000-1 National Jewish Population Survey determined that, "Married adults with children have higher levels of volunteering for Jewish organizations than other Jews." Rachel Aber Schlesinger argued in 1998 that senior citizens can provide a unique value to the community as volunteers, and, as David Elcott reported last spring, the Jewish community will have copious opportunities to take advantage of retiring Baby Boomers as volunteers or employees in encore careers during the upcoming generational shift.
Just last month, Brent Spodek and Adam Gaynor pointed out that Jewish organizations often tend to talk about doing service rather than serving, perhaps "in order to get a little bit of psychological distance between ourselves and what we are actually doing, or fear we are doing. Servants serve, servile people serve, but people of privilege 'do service.'"
Purposes of Jewish Service
While I don't see the dual goals of making a real difference (authentic service) and enhancing Jewish identity as being in conflict, they are in tension, and the over-emphasis on the putative educational aspects of service can diminish the positive social impact that make for authentic, high-quality service.
These are but some of the Jewish communal and academic literature on service in Jewish life that stretches back at least a century and, of course, back to the time when God called upon Abraham to serve Him. The recent upsurge in Jewish policy-makers' interest in service betokens not only ongoing programs and innovation in this area, but further research and policy discourse. We invite you to continue the conversation and explore our resources on Volunteerism, Communal Responsibility, Service, and Global Responsibility.
BJPA is pleased to announce that the complete 41-year collection of Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility is now available, as part of our open, searchable Archive. This digital resource, launched jointly by Sh'ma and the BJPA is available at www.shma.com or www.bjpa.org. It features the work of a vast array of Jewish leading intellectuals, including rabbis, scholars, educators, and lay leaders.
Last month, the US Supreme Court struck down a California law banning the sale of violent video games to children. Defenders of the law used various (unsuccessful) lines of reasoning, such as arguing that harm to children takes priority over other concerns, and arguing that minors do not have the same free speech rights as adults. None of the law's defenders, however, could be seen explicitly endorsing censorship, or even using the word "censorship".
But that's only because times have changed.
This little report from the November 1915 Bulletin of the National Conference of Jewish Charities was obviously not particularly noteworthy at the time, but viewed from 2011, it provides a fascinating glimpse into a time when there was a "National Board of Censorship of Motion Pictures".
The National Board of Censorship of Motion Pictures has just issued a special bulletin to all producers and directors of motion pictures in the United States. This is the first definite step taken by the Board to check the vilification of the Jewish race in the "movies." Acting in co-operation with the Jewish Community (Kehillah) of New York City, Maurice Simmons, chairman of the Committee for the Protection of the Good Name of Immigrant Peoples, has been in constant touch with the National Board of Censorship. The libeling of the Jew in the "films" had assumed alarming proportions and was the subject of complaint all over the country.
Don't you wish we still had a "Committee for the Protection of the Good Name of Immigrant Peoples"? Americans used to be much better at naming things. Also, isn't it quaint to reflect that there used to be a time when Jews were portrayed in "movies" and "films" as falling into a set of stereotypical roles? Oh,wait a minute...
On a more serious note, it may come as a surprise to modern American Jews, who are accustomed to seeing Jewish communal institutions stand generally on the side of civil liberties, that in 1915 Jewish community institutions apparently felt no tension about, or even any need to explain, appealing to the National Board of Censorship.