JOI Videos on YouTube

Earlier this summer, JOI hosted a conference in Philadelphia where we brought together some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in the world of Jewish outreach. One of the highlights was a presentation, followed by a town hall question and answer session, with Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

Rabbi Kula spoke at length about his vision for the future of the Jewish community. We have posted three selections from his presentation on YouTube in order to share his ideas with the general public. We hope by posting these videos we will help to inspire deeper conversations about how to create a more inclusive and welcoming Jewish community.

In these clips, Rabbi Kula speaks about his theory that Judaism is a “technology” which can lead to personal and social transformation, the influence of assimilation, and whether or not outreach is manipulative. What do you think about his ideas? We encourage you to watch the videos and join the debate.

We also invite you to subscribe to our YouTube channel JOIvideos to view recent videos and stay up to date with everything we post in the future.


  1. I am very grateful to the JOI community for inviting me in to share my thoughts and for the many interesting conversations I have had since Philadelphia. I am also grateful for Levi for finding three good clips from the over-the-top presentation I gave.

    To get things started I will summarize the clips in down and dirty provactive ways that I think have interesting implications for the outreach community.

    1. The emphasis on Jewish peoplehood and the Jewish community is destroying Jewish life, is a deflection from actually using and seeing if Jewish wisdom and practice can improve our ethical and spiritual lives, and has become an ends instead of a means thereby bordering on becoming an idolatry. Peoplehood and its erosion has become a rhetoric - a sort of “secular” version of a more nasty chosenness. Judaism is a “technology” that will now have to compete in the marketplace of ideas with other wisdoms and practices that get a job done: personal and social transformation. “The Jewish People” is “simply” a trustee/mediator of that wisdom. Or I might say - it is the wisdom not “the people”.

    2. Assimilation is a bugaboo. It is a controlling framing rhetoric by an increasingly small number of very well-meaning people (who see themselves as core, committed, engaged, good Jews) that divides up people without any correspondence to how people see themselves in their own interior life, that marshals resources to keep whole parts of Jewish organizational life going, that evokes fear rather than hope, and that ultimately masks from the very Jews who use the rhetoric their own anxiety about their own Jewishness. Assimilation is a projection. And it turns out that some of the greatest periods of cultural and intellectual creativity for Jews have been when we have what is presently labeled assimilation.

    3. Outreach is a type of sales. All sales are a type of manipulation. We who are reaching out with a wisdom and practice (a Way) designed to actually help people become more deeply human always need to be conscious of where we are on the continuum between manipulation and sincerity remembering that we can be manipulative, sincere, as well as sincerely manipulative and manipulatively sincere. Or to put it differently is that one of the Achilles heels of outreach is forgetting to make sure that we are using the product we are selling and that the product is actually working to make us better, more evolved, more spiritually alive people.
    Let the conversation continue…
    Shabbat shalom,

    Comment by irwin kula — August 14, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  2. “The Big Idea” is a fascinating video also.

    Tribalism appears to be self-defeating, alienating, isolating, counterproductive, and illogical.

    What is the goal of keeping people out, policing the boundaries, creating internal hierarchies either of entitlement to Jewish knowledge or entitlement to participate in Jewish community?

    How is it possible to be a “light unto the nations” if one never shines that light outside of one’s own neighborhood?

    Comment by Sara — August 14, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

  3. A bit of advice to the directors of your videos- Don’t show so many empty seats, and do try to show an equal amount of men as women.

    Also get a better looking venue for your conferences.

    Comment by Dave — August 16, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

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