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The Centennial Fund for a Jewish Future

A Growing Apathy

Numerous studies and statistics reinforce the fact that Jewish identity is continuing to decline at an alarming rate in our culturally-assimilated society. As Jews make increasingly secular life and cultural choices, our very continuation as a people is threatened. For centuries, Jewish survival has focused on overcoming external threats, but today the greatest danger to our continuity is the growing apathy of Jews towards their Judaism.

During most of the 20th century, many Jews relied heavily on the Jewish community to find a sense of belonging and meaning in their lives. Families passed their strong connections to Judaism to their children. In 21st century America however, we live in a more inclusive society that offers Jews a multitude of choices for friendship, romance, identification, and involvement far beyond the Jewish community. With more options comes a diminishing appreciation for our rich culture, values and heritage. Technology has accelerated the assimilation process exponentially — and its impact has only begun to be felt.


Coupled with cultural assimilation is the high cost of Jewish life. Costs associated with synagogue and community centers, Jewish education and camp experiences, agency donations, kosher food, etc., require that Jews prioritize these expenses and allocate discretionary income.

Money spent on other interests, or lack of funds, explains why some Jews are choosing to become less connected to their Jewish heritage. For the large segment of the Jewish population that views cost as a barrier to building and sustaining Jewish identity, we need to find ways to help lower expenses and convey the high value of Jewish living.


In addition to the challenges of assimilation and costs, the number of Jews is declining in the U.S. in two ways: in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population. Jews in America are getting married later and having fewer children than in previous generations; we are experiencing negative population growth.

In the 1930s, Jews comprised four percent of the American population and today we're about two percent, despite infusions of Jews since World War II – Holocaust survivors, Jews from Russia, Iran, and South Africa. Our continuity becomes even more important as our population size decreases.

Learn more about specific issues that challenge us in Pittsburgh and why these issues are no laughing matter.

Engagement: A Proven Solution

In a distracting time of countless available options, we need to connect Jews of all ages and backgrounds with Jewish life, meaning and significance. We have already identified the best tool: Jewish Learning and Engagement. Countless studies and experts all point to Jewish engagement through formal and informal education, Jewish camping and Israel travel as the proven pathway to ensuring the strength of Judaism for generations to come. These experiences have a tremendous impact on the attitudes Jews form and the life decisions they make. In short, Jewish engagement leads to Jewish commitment.


Through learning and engagement, we must instill the feeling of belonging to all Jews in our community. The options for involvement must be varied enough to address  widely differing backgrounds, skill levels and interests – and these offerings must be available to all who wish to learn, regardless of affiliation (or lack thereof) or ability to pay tuition. Jewish experiences and engagement must be accessible to Jews at every life stage.

Centennial Fund for a Jewish Future (CFJF)

In Pittsburgh, we have already laid the groundwork to encourage accessible Jewish engagement. We have created significant institutions, and we are blessed with agencies, resources and fine human talent. But we have only begun.

As the most significant planned giving undertaking in the history of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, the Centennial Fund for a Jewish Future (CFJF) can ensure ongoing support for a range of high-quality programs that advance the vital aspects of Jewish life. Funding for this endowment means that Pittsburgh can, and will become a magnet for Jews who seek a community in which learning, participation, and strong identity are the rules rather than the exceptions.

Find out how CFJF is already making a positive impact on our community and how you can get involved.

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"One of the ways that we deal with our anxieties and fears is by laughing at them; anything that can be mocked immediately seems less threatening. Many of the most important issues that Jews think about, often obsessively, are expressed in Jewish humor"

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews