We enter any subject of investigation filled with learned viewpoints, opinions, and select facts that we choose to employ. This helps to make the task of uncovering what we mean by Jewish and Jewish community fraught with unusual difficulty. Whatever our background, it will be hard to shake preconceived positions. In addition, the Jewish community seeks to nurture purely voluntary association at a time of little support in the popular culture for sustaining communal norms, existing institutions or unenforceable obligations. Our study must also then be understood within the larger American context of voluntary associations.
The Taub seminar will wrestle with such issues as identity, communal organization, core and fringe, and the indices and litmus tests of institutionalized belonging. We will explore how power is defined, how leaders are selected and consensus determined. We will examine the wide range of communal institutions and organizations – philanthropic, educational, social, religious and social service – that place themselves within the orbit of the Jewish community to uncover how they define their missions, establish authority, make decisions, recruit involvement and gain (or lose) loyalty and affiliation. As important, we will test the capacities of these institutions and their leaders to address the many challenges they face in an environment of waning allegiance and obligation.