Rabbi Ed Feinstein Speaks at JFNA’s GA, Evoking Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

This morning, Rabbi Ed Feinstein delivered an impassioned speech at the morning plenary session of the annual General Assembly event of the Jewish Federations of North America. In the speech, which was heavily inspired by and evocative of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s impressive talk at the 1965 General Assembly,* he sought to push both the attendees and Jewish Federations to consider strongly incorporating Jewish values in their work. He states, bluntly, at the outset that “Our disease is a loss of character and commitment.” In the talk, which is viewable below, includes such gems as these:

  • “Without a language of shared values, without the compelling vision of the community we seek to create, we evoke crisis; we resort to fear. But crisis and fear are a drug that produce an immediate high, with withdrawal always following.”
  • “I would like to nominate these terms to be erased from our vocabulary; I’d like to get rid of branding, marketing, engagement, strategy, and – my favorite – Millennials.”
  • “Make Federation the most powerful force for Jewish education and Jewish revival in the community. Make Federation a Jewish educational force, because we will not succeed at collective communal philanthropy unless we offer a narrative of collective, communal narrative. We will not engage more givers or more gifts without a compelling message of Jewish meaning. We will not find new ways to do Federation until we succeed in imagining new ways to do Jewish.”

Enjoy the video!

* The speech, which I highly recommend, is found as “Existence and Celebration”, in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, ed. Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996), 18-32. It is available on Google Books.


  1. Lorena Mendelsohn

    11/14/2017 at 12:14 pm

    Awesome speech. Thank for sending this!!
    Rabbi Ed Feinstein is a person with a clear and compelling vision-a world class teacher.

  2. Martin Ingall

    11/29/2017 at 2:13 pm

    All very nice, but if you’re selling an empty shell no success with be enduring.

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