One of the questions I am frequently asked, especially by millennials who are in search of like-minded others who wish to gather and support each other in their personal and spiritual growth, is, “How do we find and/or create such a community?” While “finding” one may not be so easy, the process is quite simple—do an online search, interview any that seem appealing, and then check out a few gatherings to feel (not see) if you belong. Not that different from finding an attorney or physician, therapist, school for your child, etc. Creating one, on the other hand, requires a lot more.
Now in the old paradigm, while it took effort and resources, the path to creation was pretty much a straight line. A small group of leaders would feel a need; organize; create a charter for a synagogue/chapter of an organization; develop a mission statement; try to attract members; and then, once they had been established for a period of time and had the critical mass to do so, “hire” professional leadership to “run the show”. The model was one of “sellers and buyers.” There were a lot of buyers back then as belonging to an identified community felt like an essential element of being a good citizen, or in my world, a good Jew. That began to shift in the 1970’s and 80’s as was well-documented in Robert Putnam’s, Bowling Alone. In his now famous example, Putnam cited that more people than ever were enjoying bowling; yet, at the same time, the number of bowling leagues were far fewer. Nevertheless, I would argue, the need for community is a human one and did not disappear altogether in the 20th century; rather, it paused to adjust to the new, post-modern paradigm.
What I would like to suggest is that in the post-modern world we need a new model—that of co-owners and equal participants, instead of sellers and buyers. The following is a basic “How To” for the post-modern community which eschews any sense of permanent hierarchy.
There you have it. Our default way of approaching life is hierarchy. After all, we begin life as infants being cared for by adults who have all the power. I remember many years ago one of my sons being defiant regarding something I told him he had to do. He turned bright red and shouted, “You are NOT the boss of me!” Biting my lip to contain the laughter, I replied, “That may be true, but right now, you are going to do what I say.” In the post-modern community, we learn that sharing or rotating power is the best way to full inclusion. An inclusive society, where everyone’s voice is heard and cherished (even the ones who may annoy us) is the surest way to a world in which everyone thrives.
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