THE BLOG
04/26/2011 10:37 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Passing Down Jewish Heritage All Year Long

At my family's Passover Seder this year, we engaged the table in a conversation of what freedom truly means in the world today. Our five children, ranging in age from 17 to 25, debated the concept as many nations today are in transition. They discussed Israel today and what redemption meant after hundreds of years of slavery. My social media expert in the family suggested it would have been significantly different back then if they had Twitter and Facebook.

As we prepare to conclude Passover, we are eager to continue involving the next generation in shaping our future. Engaging younger Jews remains a top priority at The Jewish Federations of North America, and we are looking ahead with great hope and possibility.

For more than a century, The Jewish Federations have served as a mainstay in communities across the continent, galvanizing Jews by helping our neighbors in need and preserving our collective heritage. For many Jews of my generation and my parents' generation, becoming active in the local Jewish Federation was a given. It was simply part of our proud Jewish experience.

Today, however, young Jews are faced with more ways to get involved and to shape their identity than ever and engaging directly in Jewish causes is no longer an automatic part of the Jewish journey. Young and philanthropic Jews today care about the environment, curing diseases and ending poverty in every corner of the world. These passions are admirable and continue the strong Jewish traditions of charity and concern for the world around us.

It is not The Jewish Federations' goal to be the replacement for these wonderful causes that Jewish youth are passionate about and identify with strongly. Instead, we are working to incorporate Jewish identity and heritage into the new fields that young Jews today are exploring. We are constantly on the lookout for ways to create new pathways for youth to come into the Jewish community and merge their interests with activities happening with the Federations and our hundreds of partners.

In one key step forward, last month more than 1,300 young Jews came together in a much different desert than the one our ancestors encountered during the Exodus from Egypt. This time, these young Jews united in Las Vegas in a new kind of gathering The Jewish Federations hosted called TribeFest.

To ensure TribeFest succeeded in offering an array of Jewish experiences, The Jewish Federations worked with dozens of global Jewish organizations and other partners -- Birthright Israel, Punk Jews, Chabad, Keshet, JDate, Jewlicious and even the NFL and MTV. Mayim Bialik of TV's Blossom fame was even there to describe her own incredible Jewish journey.

Jewish Federations are also exploring more ways to engage young Jews through an area in which we have a deep history -- Jewish service. We jump-started this effort at our General Assembly, which took place last year in New Orleans, as hundreds of young Jews joined dozens of hands-on service projects in the still-recovering city.

From the turnout and buzz, it's clear that young Jews want to join the Jewish community to keep giving back. We will continue to explore new opportunities to help these and more Jewish youth connect directly to the spirit of tikkun olam -- and join them in their and our missions to repair the world.