On January 1, 2011, the oldest baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, hit retirement age. Nearly 77 million Americans constitute this demographic. That’s a lot of people! And as they retire, they will have a lot of time available and will hopefully be looking for meaningful endeavors in this new stage of their lives. The coming generation of baby boomers is healthier, wealthier and more mobile than preceding generations, and they have tremendous potential to share much needed experiences they learned from their fields of expertise. The Jewish community can’t afford to miss the opportunity to find ways to tap into this resource and ensure they stay involved in Jewish life.
Though much of the focus on outreach work is on younger generations, we need to make sure we are meeting the needs of Jewish baby boomers by recognizing how they want to participate in the Jewish community in retirement and providing meaningful outlets for engagement. How we can do this is just one of the many topics we will be covering at our upcoming conference, Judaism2030: A Working Conference for a Vibrant Jewish Future.
In his report “Baby Boomers, Public Service and Minority Communities: A Case Study of the Jewish Community in the United States”, Dr. David Elcott, a senior research fellow at the Research Center for Leadership in Action and professor at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, finds that most Jewish Baby Boomers see retirement as a time for work and service, not rest. But he argues that organizations serving ethnic or religious communities are unprepared to tap this potentially huge influx of talent and experience. This means some baby boomers will seek out retirement work, what Dr. Elcott calls an “encore career,” outside of the Jewish community. As Sue Fishkoff noted in a JTA article on the report’s findings, “Boomers represent 50 percent of affiliated Jews in the United States — a major loss if they disappear.”
What can we do to ensure these millions of Jews, many of whom are actively involved in Jewish life, continue to affiliate with the Jewish community? We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Elcott, the author of the baby boomers report, together with Stuart Himmelfarb will address this topic at JOI’s Judaism2030 Conference in a session titled “Second Life: Jewish Baby Boomers Re-engaging through Social Action and Public Service.” They will explore ways to tap into the unprecedented talented and enthusiastic population of baby boomers.
It’s important to engage younger generations and encourage them to take on leadership roles, but it’s just as important to ensure that today’s retiring generation stays affiliated and active if we are to shape a vibrant Jewish future. Join us on May 23-24 to find out how!