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Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Chabad Merkos 302: Fighting From Within
Guest Post by Joshua Nass
We all recall how our community felt after the news of the Pew Research Center’s “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” was released. The question was continuously posed. What should be done to combat this troubling trajectory? What can be done? As the Pew study revealed, the intermarriage rate among the non-orthodox segments of our community are at a staggering high, with 71.5% of non-orthodox American Jews marrying outside their faith.
The Pew study established that the nonorthodox Jewish population is becoming smaller and smaller. An even scarier statistic was that only seventeen percent of children from interfaith marriages marry Jewish. These are devastating numbers and we must do all we can collectively to reverse this trajectory. The proper remedy to this problem is to cultivate and breed the next generation of ambassadors and advocates of traditional Judaism. We must commit ourselves to outreach to the unaffiliated and take a “big tent” approach in doing so.
This strategic approach must start with our community’s youth and Chabad’s Merkos 302 is doing just that. They’ve developed a global Jewish youth network that promotes and instills Jewish values in the next generation of Jewry. CTeen, their global teen network has one hundred fifty chapters worldwide and reaches a staggering ten thousand teenagers from diverse backgrounds weekly. The events that are put together through this program are nothing short of remarkable. This past December members of the CTeen network’s 34 tri-state chapters participated at the Brooklyn Nets’ Jewish Heritage Night sharing the lights of Chanukah with the thousands present at the Barclays Center. It’s this type of event that’s ultimately needed to ignite the fire of our community’s youth.
On February 24th of 2015, the network’s annual convention was held with over 1,500 Jewish Teens from around the world gathering in Crown Heights and Times Square to make their voices heard loud and clear. The CTeen network is the fastest-growing Jewish teen organization in the world. The convention honored those Jewish teens that are making invaluable contributions to their respective communities around the world. At the convention, there was representation of teens from Hong Kong, Brazil, France, England, Australia, Germany, Singapore and many more countries worldwide.
With our people coming under attack worldwide with the unfortunate rise of anti-Semitism, the most effective way of combatting this issue is by instilling a sense of Jewish pride in Jewish youth worldwide. In this spirit, Chabad’s Global Jewish Youth Network launched a “Share the Lights” campaign, encouraging young Jews to enjoy and share the lights of Chanukah with others. We cannot let the light of our people diminish. We must do everything within our power to ignite the flame of the Jewish people so that it is powerful as ever and Merkos 302 has committed themselves to doing just that.
For Passover, Merkos 302 is continuing to develop innovative programs to ensure that as many Jews of all ages are experiencing the beauty of the holiday. They developed an app to help facilitate Jews worldwide in their search of a Passover seder. The “Chabad Link” app is yet another example of a Jewish communal leadership initiative that Merkos 302 has embarked on to ensure our community’s tent becomes bigger than ever. Utilizing technology to facilitate Merkos 302’s quest of combatting anti-Semitism and promoting Jewish continuity is exactly within the contemporary spirit that must be used to have this enormously positive influence.
There are many organizations with the mission of promoting Jewish continuity and they should be commended for investing their efforts into this incredibly important and noble goal. I would urge each and every one of them to turn to Merkos 302 as a model. Led by Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, this organization has launched programs that have already effectuated enormously positive change and they are just getting started. I urge everybody to watch this rapidly growing organization’s work and to get involved anyway you can!
Chag Kasher V’Sameach to all.