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New York, New York – It’s Up To You?

July 17, 2008

So I have just come back from a brief visit to New York City, where I had a series of meetings with some tremendously talented and thoughtful individuals who are making an impact on the local and national Jewish community. Much of my notes from those meetings will be the genesis of several posts on this blog, but one of the overarching perceptions I took away was that, while much of the ‘organized’ Jewish community was quick to point out to me that a substantial portion of the community development that is occurring in NYC can’t be replicated elsewhere (on the assumption that the size, strength, wealth and diversity of Jewish life in New York made it a uniquely fertile place for Jewish innovation and experience), many of the grassroots/entrepreneurial Jewish innovators believe that their work is at least conceptually transferable if not specifically replicable.

Atlanta is certainly no New York (and most native Atlantans would prefer to keep it that way, thank you very much). But the question should be asked, why can’t Atlanta have the same level of innovation and creativity with respect to Jewish life that takes place in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and other centers of Jewish life? Anyone who observes Jewish demographic trends can easily recognize the tremendous growth the Atlanta Jewish community has seen in the past ten years as well the potential for equally impressive growth in the future. Included in that growth is the influx of creative, spiritual and artistic individuals who want to innovate Jewishly, whether on a personal or communal level. And Atlanta by no means is a community without resources. So why then should we not believe that a culture of Jewish creativity can’t take root in Atlanta in a manner similar to the culture that permeates Jewish life in New York City? Even if it we can’t replicate the creative culture of New York, shouldn’t we at least be inspired by it? And if we are inspired by it, what initiatives and strategies should we use as a community to actualize our own Jewish Atlanta creativity in a way that makes sense given the contours of our community?

Notwithstanding what the song may say, it’s not up to you New York, New York. It’s up to all of us – including those of us in Atlanta.

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