Sunday, June 3, 2007

Interview in the Jerusalem Post

The following interview appeared in the weekend edition (glossy) of the Jerusalem Post.

My Working Week by Margaux Chetrit

Rabbi Charles Lebow
Age
: 52
Marital status: Married, six children
Job Title: Director of Dor Le Dor
Job description: Coming up with creative solutions to stop assimilation.
Education: Bachelor's of Science (1977, McMaster University, Canada) Rabbinical Ordination by Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem (1990)
Years at work: Nearly 30 years.
First job: I delivered the Toronto Star newspaper in Cottage Country, Canada.
Worst job: Cleaning toilets as a volunteer on kibbutz.
How did you get into this sort of business? I went to a university with very few Jews. There was a Hillel there but it fell apart in my first year. The next year, I and a few other students organized an independent Jewish student group. Somehow I kept volunteering for things until I became the president. After graduating and spending a year in Israel, I decided that I wanted to spend some time working with Jewish students. I never really stopped.
Who are your clients? I am not sure if you would call them clients, but my target population is students and young adults in North America.
What topics do you lecture about? My main focus is on Jewish identity and leadership.
What makes you an expert on these topics? I don't claim to be an expert… I don't come with answers but rather I challenge the students to appreciate the problems that we are facing and encourage them that they can make a difference.
What reaction do you usually get from students regarding these topics? A lot of students feel that assimilation is a problem but since identity is such a personal thing, they tend to forgo discussing it with their fellow students. When you do inspire the few that actually rise to the challenge, for them it is all worth it.
Which is the most controversial? I guess the most controversy arises from issues of who is a Jew. With 50% of Jewishly identified college students coming from intermarried families it is a very touchy subject.
And how do tread the thin line? I play the role as advisor. I recommend to people that they should avoid putting their children in situations where their identity will be questioned. If they are in that situation themselves, I suggest an upgrade.
Based on your research, what is the biggest problem plaguing the Jewish world today and what can be done to fight it? I only deal with one problem and that is assimilation. It is probably the biggest. I think that there is a lot that can be done to make a difference.
The solution has to be to give more opportunities for young Jews to meet other young Jews who care passionately about being Jewish. Too much community resources are focused on teenagers and not enough on the 18-28 year cohort.
You have begun to use facebook.com as a tool for outreach. Have the results been impressive? In two weeks I got 10,000 students to sign up for an "Event" called Pesach, that was hosted by God and took place at Jewish homes throughout the world. So you might say that it has served as an excellent resource thus far.
What are the perks of this job? I visit a lot of campuses around North America so I get a lot of air miles.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Writing books.
When you were growing up what did you want to be? When I was growing up I hated that question. I used to tell people that I wanted to be nice. I think that I am; at least most of the time.
If you could share words of wisdom with the Jewish community at large, what would you say? Stop trying to fight our enemies and spend time helping other Jews.
What is your biggest accomplishment thus far? I think that I have lasted in the field longer than anyone else I know. That in itself is a big accomplishment. But I feel that I am just learning what needs to be done and how to go about it. So, the best is yet to come…

1 comment:

Tania said...

Thanks for that- quite a nice commentary, I especially liked your line: "Stop trying to fight our enemies and spend time helping other Jews."