Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler said Einstein.
Herein lays the new Catch-22 of contemporary Jewish life: In order to reach the numbers we need, we have to dumb down our message and water down the experience. A dumbed-down and watered-down Judaism, however, cannot compete in an open marketplace of ideas. Therefore, our successes lay the foundation for our failure. At the same time, when one deepens the message and intensifies the experience, one seemingly loses the numbers game.
The Jewish people have, since our inception, been the carriers of ideas. We changed history, not as a result of our economic or military power, nor by the enormity of our numbers. It was by the depth and significance of what we stood for – a way of life permeated by important ideas and values held together and conveyed through powerful and meaningful experiences – which placed Jews and Judaism as a transformational force in human culture.
This content is not Twitter-able. The journey of a meaningful Jewish life needs a wide bandwidth. It requires knowledge, time, and commitment. If we want Judaism to have a great future, and not merely a great past, we need to set our sights higher and deeper.
How do we solve the Jewish Catch-22? Part of it is not solvable, and we have to recognize that Jewish life was not in the past, and will not be in the future only a numbers game. However, there need not be a zero-sum game between short-term programs aimed at teaching “something,” and those that give content and meaning to a more extensive Jewish journey.