Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When Did Jewish Communal Service Become the Marines?

I'm not sure at which meeting exactly this occurred, but during one or another Jewish organization meeting, my eyes were suddenly opened and a great insight was revealed. You see, when I entered the rabbinate, Jewish education and Jewish communal service, the language was pretty intuitive. We measured value based on goals, objectives and outcomes. Since I'm a Jewish educator, it's obvious: measure success the way we measure any other educational success.

At the particular meeting in question, language that had begun to appear at the periphery of my professional life now completely replaced the old lexicon. The entire meeting seemed to reduce our holy work in the field to: "campaign", "strategies", "operations", "tactical work" and "technical work". It took me sometime--perhaps years from the introduction of these words until they completely took over--to fully grasp the importance of the change. Each of the new words that describe our field, our institutions and their work, are military words. We could just as easily have been in a meeting of the marine corps [not that I have anything against the marines].

That's right, folks. When we engage in the meta-conversations about the work we do in our fields, while we talk a good game about working collaboratively, we have totally adopted the lashon, the language, of conflict and of warfare.

I don't necessarily have an alternative to suggest. Not yet, anyways. But this is disturbing. What do you think?