A story and a column in this edition of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin got me thinking about how some issues of concern to the community are perennial – even if every new generation that comes along thinks that certain concerns are unique to them.
The story is Louise Rachlis’ report about a presentation delivered by Linda Kislowicz, president and CEO of Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA, on the results of a national survey of Jewish baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). That is the demographic group to which I belong, so the survey’s questions and answers are of personal interest.
As Stephanie noted, issues of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin published between 1937 and 2009 are now available online at https://archive.org/details/ottawajewisharchives (by the way, thank you, again, Saara Mortensen and the Ottawa Jewish Archives for bringing that project to fruition) – while all issues since September 2007 are available on the Bulletin website at www.ottawajewishbulletin.com/library/.
I was specifically taken with this observation of Stephanie’s: “We think that what our community is going through is unique to now, that it’s our fault, that we need to strike a new committee or devise a new program or do better outreach. All those things are probably true to some extent, but the underlying challenges and fears have been there for decades.”
Stephanie made that observation by looking at issues of the Bulletin published about once every 10 years beginning in 1945, and noticing that many of the concerns faced by Jewish mothers of young children over the generations are the same or similar to many issues faced by Jewish mothers of young children – such as herself – now.
I had a similar observation six years ago after attending one of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s openOttawa events.
The openOttawa process was a series of meetings and reports aimed at engaging young Jewish adults in the community. It was the beginning of what is now the Federation’s well-established Emerging Generation division.
In my May 30, 2011 Bulletin column, I noted that “while the openOttawa discussion was fascinating, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how similar the discussion was – minus, perhaps, the Facebook, Twitter and website references – to discussions I was party to in Montreal during the 1970s and ‘80s when I was in that age group. And mine was hardly the first generation to have that discussion.”
My generation, of course, is the baby boomers who are the subjects of the survey, the results of which Linda Kislowicz discussed in her presentation.
There were no big surprises for me in the results of the survey. We want to be engaged in the community in ways we find interesting; we care about making a difference; and, like the generations that came before us, and like the generations that have followed us, we have changing understandings of how we define ourselves as Jews.
I suspect that, if the millennials are surveyed when they reach the ages we boomers are now, the results will be similar.
As I mentioned, some issues of concern are perennial. One of the major issues we’ve continuously covered over the years I’ve edited the Bulletin is Jewish education in Ottawa – and one of the most pressing concerns in recent years has been the fluctuating levels of enrolment in both day schools and supplementary schools. Although there have been some encouraging signs recently, enrolment levels have generally declined over the past couple of decades.
But, as I discovered when I was perusing archived issues of the Bulletin, this is not a new concern.
The February 7, 1941 issue featured an editorial entitled “Educating The Next Man’s Children” in which the author (the editorial was unsigned, but I believe it was written by Rabbi Oscar Z. Fasman, Ottawa’s community rabbi at the time) lamented that most parents in the Ottawa Jewish community of 76 years ago were opting to send their children to public rather than Jewish schools. Now doesn’t that sound familiar?