"Renew Our Days as of Old": Innovation as a Metric of Jewishness

By Yehuda Kurtzer

Jewish Communal Service Association of North America (JCSA), Spring 2011

In recent years the Jewish world has seen a proliferation of ideas purporting to be innovative and an increased organizational and philanthropic valuing of innovation. In this climate we are left to wonder whether we are witnessing a trend symbolized in a catchword or are experiencing a meaningful change in the culture of Jewish organizational life. We are also left to wonder, How new is innovation to Jewishness and Jewish life? Is this move toward newing and renewing in itself new? Or does it (ironically) affirm the systems of the classical Jewish past? And which of these answers offers greater hope for the innovation culture and for organized Jewish life? In this article I want to reinforce the centrality of innovation as a key current in classical Jewish thought. To help us think about this, I present three case-sketches that situate the innovation debate in the classical tradition - in the realms of theology, law and history. They suggest that the language of innovation is not merely faddish, but instead is integral to the processes of Jewishness. Yet this creates a certain ironic situation: If the old systems claim innovation as their key criterion, one wonders what is left for the present. To that end, I propose that we refine our terminology to divide between creativity and innovation. This well-articulated divide in the professional literature of management and business also helps us understand the currents of Jewish thought on the question of "newness." And in turn, we start to understand that the programmatic question should be not "What's after innovation," but rather, "How do we make sure we innovate properly?"

Topic: Innovation, Halakha, Jewish Law, Jewish Text, Jewish Organizations, Communal Memory

Name of Publication: Journal of Jewish Communal Service

Editor: Naron Chalew, Gail

Volume/Issue: Vol.86/No.1/2

Page Number(s): 23-29

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Genre: Article

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Kurtzer, Yehuda. "Renew Our Days as of Old": Innovation as a Metric of Jewishness. Journal of Jewish Communal Service. Jewish Communal Service Association of North America (JCSA). Spring 2011: 23-29. http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=13805


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