Who Do We Serve: A Blog Series

by Bennie Cohen

On May 8, 2012, 25 professionals gathered in Atlanta for our Southeast NEXTwork Launch. The NEXTwork is our growing network of professionals engaging Jewish young adults in their local communities, and at this Launch, we endeavored to create a forum where they could share best practices, make connections, and probe deeper into challenges we face as a field.

One of our sessions, titled “Who Do We Serve?”, helped us to uncover our Jewish young adult audience–their demographics, personalities, traits, and inclinations. With the help of a scribe, we created a visual representation of our discussion (check out the image below) that emphasized the themes of our discussion: authenticity, Jewish young adults’ needs, feelings of acceptance, the stigma of “not being Jewish enough,” and volunteering (to name a few). Rafi Samuels-Schwartz, NEXT’s Northeast regional director, has already written a post about this fascinating topic, and it has left us wanting more. At the end of his post, he poses several important questions:

“Consider it – Has your organization taken the time recently to ask itself “who do we serve?” If so, how has your organization changed as a result of that question? If not, perhaps it’s time to clearly define, or redefine, your audience. Are they who you think they are? Have they changed? Has your organization?”

As Jewish organizations who seek to involve young adults in our community, we must always remember the people we are trying to serve.  We need this reality check, because often, we want so much for young adults to buy into our missions that we forget to to do our homework on this demographic.

In looking at the complexity of the themes that emerged from this conversation, we feel that Rafi’s post serves as a great prompt for future posts on this topic. In the coming weeks, we’ll publish several posts as part of a Who Do We Serve? series. We invite you to join the conversation, and add comments and anecdotes along the way when you see themes that resonate with you.

Our next post will focus on the needs of Jewish young adults, so stay tuned.

Bennie Cohen is the Southeast Regional Director for NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @whosyourbennie.

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