Among Jews, labels and connections tend to be complicated. Judaism is a religion, a culture and an ethnic group. “A lot of being Jewish today is identity driven,” says Raiffe, 30, who grew up on Miami Beach and now lives in Midtown. “Many of us are asking, ‘What does it mean to be a Jew today?’ ”
For Raiffe, the answer translates into “finding ways to connect to that rich tradition (of Judaism) on a meaningful level”— namely community service.
“The issue we have before us is this: What will draw young Jews to a collective Jewish life,” says Steven M. Cohen, a professor at Hebrew Union College who has done research work for Synagogue 3000, one of The Tribe’s donors. “We have to provide alternatives for young Jews to connect with Jewish life and each other.”
Other groups do just that — The Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s The Network, for example, and the Jewish Community Services Alliance. But The Tribe tries to “meet them where they are,” says director Denar, both on a religious level and a physical level. The Tribe hosts events that blend tradition with innovation, the secular with the spiritual. It does not charge membership dues, and the appeal is to Jewish life and identity, not necessarily to religious precepts.
SHABBAT WITH A VIEW
Its oldest event is Shabbat on the Beach, where participants can join in a non-traditional Sabbath experience with song, prayer, wine — and a great view. Another popular event was a series of programs at the Equinox gyms, and in January, participants can join The Tribe at the annual “Jews and Canoes” in Oleta State Park for a Tu B’Shvat celebration, the Jewish New Year of the Trees. The group’s last large-scale event was covered in the New York Times because the off-beat Rosh Hashana services encouraged the congregants to participate by texting.
Next week’s Vodka Latke event, co-sponsored by the young Jewish groups The Network, The Alliance, Birthright and MASA, is The Tribe’s largest event. Young rabbis from the three denominations of Judaism — Orthodox, Conservative and Reform — will invite guests to light a candle. Proceeds will benefit Miami Children’s Hospital.
This kind of event, says Cohen of Hebrew Union College, typically draws young Jewish professionals. “They want something very social, but they also want something with purpose. They want meaningful socializing, not just getting together with friends.”
Meaningful socializing was what first prompted Helena Cohen, now 30, to co-found the young professionals group at Temple Beth Sholom that would eventually evolve into The Tribe. She is now on The Tribe’s board of directors.
“I wanted to make my own community,” she said. “When I came back from college, everyone I grew up with was no longer here. Most of my friends were gone, but I still wanted to connect with young Jews.”
‘BEYOND THE WALLS’
Rabbi Gary Glickstein of Temple Sholom in Miami Beach, which still houses The Tribe’s office, recognized the opportunity early on. “We needed to reach beyond the walls of the synagogue to these affiliated and unaffiliated young Jews. Our job is to help them on this journey of finding a Jewish community that speaks to them.”
The Tribe is carving out the path slowly, earning economic support from various groups, including the Woldenberg Foundation, the Sandler Foundation and Synagogue 3000/Next Dor, organizations interested in re-engaging young Jews.
Neiger, who moved here from Belgium six years ago to establish an eco-friendly dry cleaners, said he had trouble making friends at first. The Tribe, however, introduced him to people — and to something much more.
“It’s a very pluralistic organization and that’s what I like about it because there are opportunities for everybody, including the less religious,” says Neiger, who now chairs the board. “Since I’ve been part of it, it has taken my sense of community to a whole other level.”