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With so much focus in the American Jewish community on engaging twentysomethings and families with young children, some wonder whether we are alienating another key demographic: baby boomers. These are Jews born between 1946 and 1964, and who every year since 2011 are turning 65 at the rate of roughly 10,000 a day.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, founder and director of jewishsacredaging.com, “a forum for the Jewish community . . . that features discussions on the implications of the revolution in longevity for baby boomers and their families,” believes an increasing number of Jews ages 50 and older feel the institutional Jewish community has written them off. In a recent article entitled, “If You Forget Them, They Will Not Come,” he writes, “The focus on engaging youth seems to be sending a not so subtle message of the marginalization of older adults.”
The rabbi believes that this “is a tragic mistake” in light of the fact that Jews ages 65 and older constitute about 25 percent of the Jewish population in the United States — and that percentage is likely to grow as baby boomers continue to age. “This is a generation that is seeking meaningful Jewish answers to new life stages. To disengage from this generation is foolish and courts irrelevancy. There is untapped spiritual capital here.”
Address finds that many baby boomers are leaving congregations because there is “precious little” there for them.” According to a recent demographic study by Jewish Federation of St. Louis, only 37 percent of baby boomers feel very connected to the Jewish community, compared to 48 percent of seniors, age 65 and older.