By Dovid Bashevkin
No one is quite sure when this crisis began. Some point to the four symposiums on the future of Modern Orthodoxy that appeared in various Jewish publications within a six-month period; others suggest the growing trend to service “teens at risk of becoming at risk.” A third school of thought, albeit a strong-voiced minority, point to a recent Jewish rally to have more passionate rallies. Regardless of the precise determining factor, the underlying theme is clear: the Jewish community is slowly running out of crises.
Dr. Mordechai Y. Leiner, a noted crisis historian who has closely watched the crisis trends in the Jewish community, remarked that while anti-Semitism had been the stalwart crisis in the Jewish community for hundreds of years, the community has begun to waver in its crisis resolve. The seventies saw a kiruv crisis, the eighties witnessed a Russian Jewry crisis, while the nineties were defined by teens at risk.
Interestingly, the twenty-first century has had several crises, most notably the shidduch crisis and tuition crisis, but none of which truly defines the generation. While no scholar has been able to explain why the past crises failed to touch the hearts of the masses, there has been some interesting speculation. The Rube Goldberg-like solutions that have been proposed to resolve the shidduch crisis may have served to distract from the very existence of a crisis, while the tuition crisis is simply too expensive for many financially exhausted parents to seriously consider.
“I am afraid,” Dr. Leiner solemnly confessed, “we may have simply run out of crises.”
However, out of this concern arose the latest and most exciting development in crisis history—the crisis crisis.
Regardless of the precise determining factor, the underlying theme is clear: the Jewish community is slowly running out of crises.
Hailed by rabbis and leaders across denominations, the “crisis crisis” has begun to unite the Jewish community. Reminiscent of the pageantry and unity which marked previous generations, many organizations have already begun contests and online polls to determine which crisis should grip the Jewish world next. A small synagogue in Boston has championed the “sponge cake crisis,” noting how many shul kiddushim have become assimilated with sushi and low-carb snacks, disregarding the time-honored tradition of sponge cake.
A JCC on the East Coast has begun to draw attention to the “sliding crisis.” In a recent press release, the JCC noted, “Whether it’s sliding to the right or sliding to the left, I think it is fair to say that there may be a sliding crisis of sorts. The time has come to put an end to sliding—in any direction.”
Sadly, a clear crisis consensus has yet to emerge, leaving only the “crisis crisis” to fester within the community.
Others seemed more skeptical of the correct response.
A spokesman from the Anti-Anti-Semitism Society decried the very notion of a “crisis crisis.” “This blatant oversight of the rampant anti-Semitism which is still prevalent in our community is itself anti-Semitic!”
The chairman of J.C.E.U.A.R.J.R.S.T.I.A (The Jewish Council for the Employment of Unaffiliated At Risk Jewish Russians Struggling with Tuition and Israel Advocacy) remarked, “The Jewish community has a veritable plethora of crises to choose from; when faced with a perceived crisis drought, we need more creativity in combining old crises to form new and more exciting ones for the community.”
The crisis crisis has not gone unnoticed among Jewish teens.
Josh Mardukas, an eleventh grader from Woodmere, New York, along with his father, Hank, has begun a crisis crisis campaign to bring awareness to teens of this crucial issue. Josh began wearing a blank yellow bracelet to highlight the painful lack of clear accord on this crisis issue. Since then, hundreds of teens across the country have joined his effort.
In a powerful display, the recent “Run for Crisis Marathon” featured nearly one hundred and fifty runners who raised money for the “crisis crisis” by getting sponsors and committing to run in the marathon, which poignantly was just a quarter-mile track which they ran around in circles for a little over thirteen miles.
Other teens, lured by the more glamorous and appealing crises of the secular world, have not gotten as involved in the crisis crisis of the Jewish community, leading many rabbinic leaders to accuse the teens of only being immersed in a “half-crisis.”
Regardless of how the crisis crisis will unfold, leaders have become increasingly pessimistic about what this “crisis crisis” may portend for the Jewish community.
One leader commented, on the condition of anonymity, “We are ill-equipped to deal with this sudden crisis. All we can do in the face of such struggle is to sincerely come together with the same weapons our heartfelt bubbies and zeides wielded—a conference!”
Dovid Bashevkin is the associate director of education for NCSY. He is studying public policy and management at The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs. When possible, he does his best to avoid crises.