Just Jewish

How to Engage Millennials and Build a Vibrant Jewish Future

by Rabbi Dan Horwitz


This item will be released on August 22, 2023.

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About this book

Why are there so few young adults joining synagogues? Why aren’t young adults donating to or serving on the boards of Jewish organizations the way their parents and grandparents did? Why aren’t my young adult children doing Jewish the way I did Jewish? And why aren’t there any books that specifically focus on Jewish young adult engagement and education post-college, sharing secrets and best practices from the field?

For those leading Jewish organizations (including synagogues), and for many Jewish parents and grandparents of young adults (22-39 year olds), these are questions that come up frequently. For a religion that is hyper-focused on “L’dor v’dor” – transmitting the Jewish tradition “from generation to generation” – the notion that young adults just aren’t interested in carrying on Jewish practices or embracing the Jewish commitments of those who came before them poses quite a challenge – both on interpersonal and organizational sustainability levels. As a result, it seems the entire Jewish world is focused on how to engage Jewish young adults. But, if the data collected from reliable sources such as Pew are any indication, very few organizations are succeeding.

Enter “The Well,” which Rabbi Dan Horwitz founded in the summer of 2015 in Metro Detroit to embrace this specific call to action, and which has been doing on-the-ground research and development for Jewish young adult engagement and education since. Repeatedly recognized as one of the 50 most innovative Jewish organizations in North America and included in the Slingshot Fund’s inaugural “10 to Watch” list in 2020, with funding from both local and national donors, a number of models created by The Well – both on the programmatic and resource development sides of the organization – have been embraced by organizations nationally. From custom Jewish-holiday-themed escape rooms that were designed, piloted, and licensed out to communities across the country, to a blitz fundraising model that has since worked for Hillels and JCCs, to a revolutionary approach to Jewish text study that was a semifinalist for the inaugural Lippman Kanfer Prize in Applied Jewish Wisdom and which received national philanthropic support to pilot in other cities, The Well – never with an annual budget of more than $500k or more than 4 full-time staff – has helped to transform the Jewish young adult engagement and education landscape in Metro Detroit and beyond.

Just Jewish: How to Engage Millenials and Build a Vibrant Jewish Future shares proven techniques and models ready to be adopted by the Jewish world’s myriad organizations, touching on everything from organizational structure, to fundraising models, to programmatic approaches, to relationship development, and more, extrapolating lessons (and secrets) from The Well so they can be applied to the Jewish community writ large. As older generations start to take steps back from Jewish communal leadership, the time to meaningfully engage young adults to ensure future leadership pipelines (both professional and volunteer) and Jewish vibrancy is NOW, and this book exists to help make it happen!

Advance Praise

“There are hundreds of well-resourced synagogues and Jewish organizations that are trying to figure out how to attract Jewish Millennials to their programs and services. Rabbi Dan is one of a handful of teachers/spiritual leaders who has been a Pied Piper to Jewish Millennials. His book is filled with dozens of examples of how he has done that successfully. Anyone who cares about making Judaism attractive and compelling to Next Gen Jews needs to read this book.”
Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Director, Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI); Author, Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future.

“When I visited The Well, I was envious. Why wasn’t my post-college life like that? And The Well felt enticingly hip and innovative compared with any bricks-and-mortar pulpit. Now some of The Well’s Torah is available for all of us. Don’t ‘program for;’ build with. Don’t hawk ‘membership;’ weave relationship. Build a ‘B-Brand,’ nourish pluralism, and don’t fear change. I emerged from this book ready to roll up my sleeves and build my own rabbinate better than before.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt, aka “The Velveteen Rabbi.” Author: Crossing The Sea.

“I devoured Just Jewish in a single sitting—but I underlined, scribbled comments, and made notes in the margins because I knew I’d return to this book often, using it as a resource for years to come. Daniel Horwitz’s real-life, real-time, on-the-ground experiences coupled with his wisdom, humor, and contemporary references create the ideal road map for how to ensure today’s young adult seekers become tomorrow’s grown-up torch-bearers for Jewish life. Daniel’s book is a must read for anyone who cares about the Jewish future.”
Zack Bodner, CEO, Oshman Family JCC Palo Alto, Author: Why Do Jewish?

“As the ground shifts beneath the feet of Jewish institutions, this book provides a road map for how to navigate these seismic changes in our community and in our world. Rabbi Horwitz demonstrates a deep knowledge and understanding of what makes Millennials tick, and how to meet them where they are. He brings the reader into conversation with the most current research available while being honest about the challenges inherent in this work. This is an essential handbook for any religious communal professional from any faith background.”
Rabba Rachel Kohl Finegold, Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Montreal.

“To anyone who has sought to understand the black box of engaging Millenials, “Just Jewish” is a must read! Thank you Rabbi Dan for sharing your playbook of success with all of us. This book will shape the conversation as to how we think about the Jewish future.”
Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, Park Avenue Synagogue, NY; Editor: Jewish Theology in Our Time: A New Generation Explores the Foundations and Future of Jewish Belief.

“In Just Jewish, Rabbi Dan Horwitz provides a superb roadmap and guide to the Millennials, a generation of Jews that has generally remained distant from the traditional institutions and practices of Jewish life. Drawing from his incomparably successful experience Horwitz wisely provides the necessary language and tactics for effectively engaging this unique generation. This is an essential book for those of us who care about the future of Jewish life.”
Rabbi Peter Rubenstein, Emeritus Director, Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at 92Y; Rabbi Emeritus, Central Synagogue.

“Rabbi Horwitz has given today’s Jewish communal leadership an invaluable roadmap to a strong and vibrant future. Meticulously researched and cogently argued, this book should be on the desk of every rabbi, cantor, Jewish professional and lay leader committed to the survival and renewal of American Judaism.”
Rabbi Yonatan Dahlen, Congregation Shaarey Zedek.

“There are few Jewish leaders who have devoted more thought to and spent more personal time on the critical issue of engaging Millennial American Jews than Rabbi Dan Horwitz. In an engaging but fearless manner, Horwitz raises the tough questions about our communal challenges in engaging young leaders and provides thoughtful and nuanced suggestions for a path forward. Just Jewish should be considered required reading for anyone serious about the existential question of how to assure that American Jews remain connected to their identities.”
Daniel Elbaum, President & CEO of JAID; Head of North America – The Jewish Agency for Israel.

“As a rabbi who ran a very large Jewish young adult project in Boston and now as the founder of Modern JewISH Couples, I am grateful for Dan’s book which lays out the strategies, practices and pedagogies critical to working with the Millennial population. Not only was Dan a great colleague in this work, but The Well demonstrated creative models for young adult engagement that inspired my work and many others. But these models are not just for Millennials, they are adaptable to other populations that you might serve. The Jewish future depends on thoughtful leaders building models of rich Jewish learning, joy and relationships. Dan shares deep insights in innovation, engagement, and Jewish wisdom that are a beautiful blueprint for building vibrant Jewish community in the years to come. From Tot Shabbat to Friendseder, from meetings over cups of coffee to hosting Jewish learning gatherings in 3rd spaces, from fundraising from foundations to building participant investment, this book will help you in your work to make Jewish communities of meaning inclusive of Millennials and beyond.”
Rabbi Jen Gubitz, Founder, Modern JewISH Couples.

“Just Jewish is well-researched, highly accessible, and packed with valuable insights, compelling readers to consider their assumptions and open up important conversations about how to navigate the changing Jewish landscape. For leaders who want to build communities of belonging that help young people feel excited and proud to be Jewish, this book is required reading!”
Kohenet Keshira HaLev Fife, founder of Kesher Pittsburgh and former Executive Director of Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute.

“From the moment I met him (some ten years ago) I knew that Dan Horwitz was the kind of transformational leader so desperately needed by our contemporary faith community. That sense has only been reinforced over and again in our work together. And now he has written this book which will serve as an authoritative guide to anyone concerned about the next generation and their commitment to the Jewish future. That should be all of us.”
Rabbi Terry Bookman, EITZAH; Author: Beyond Survival.