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JPR Executive Director, Jonathan Boyd spoke alongside Sarah Sackman (Labour Party candidate for Finchley and Golders Green) and leading Jewish educator Maureen Kendler, at an event hosted by top international law firm, Berwin Leighton Paisner.
The event, organised by Tzedek, a leading Jewish charity working to fight poverty in some of the poorest parts of the world, took place in the BLP "sukkah" - the temporary booth constructed for the harvest festival of Sukkot to recall the structures Jews lived in during the biblical period of wandering in the desert. Each of the speakers was invited to talk about the meaning of the sukkah from their particular professional perspective.
Speaking as a social scientist, Boyd compared the fragility of the sukkah to the fragility of Jewish identity, drawing on JPR data to point out that "four times as many Jews are exhibiting signs of Jewish identity dilution over the course of their lives than Jewish identity concentration." He further highlighted some of the findings from JPR's recent report on the impact of different educational interventions on the identities of Jewish students to demonstrate that the Judaism practiced in people's homes "is by far and away the most important factor in Jewish identity development."
He noted that the blessing recited by Jews during the festival is not concerned with the building of the sukkah, but rather with the dwelling in it, and suggested that we might use that as a metaphor to think about Jewish identity development. "Often educators and community professionals are concerned with 'building' the Jewish identities of young people over time; perhaps they should shift to providing opportunities for young people to 'dwell' within their Jewish identities in the moment instead - to sit within them, experience them and learn to feel comfortable within them, whilst acknowledging and recognising their fragility." As he stated in conclusion, "the challenge of Jewish identity today is not so much to build it, but rather to dwell within it."