Catholic-Jewish symposium on young people and faith

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The Catholic-Jewish Commission of Southern New Jersey is sponsoring a symposium through our educational outreach, the Catholic-Jewish Institute of Understanding, addressing the topic of why so many of our young people are not practicing their faith.

Panelists for the symposium will be Mike Jordan Laskey, director of Life and Justice Ministries for the Diocese of Camden, and Rabbi Moshe Schwartz, head of school at Kellman Brown Academy.

Laskey graduated in 2008 from the University of Notre Dame, Ind., with a master’s degree in theology, with a concentration in catechesis. He was program coordinator at the Center for FaithJustice in Lawrenceville, N.J., where he created and facilitated workshops on Catholic social teaching for professionals and students and developed and presented diocesan regional workshops for professional ministers on passing on Catholic social teaching to young people. He is a new member of our Catholic-Jewish Commission.

Rabbi Schwartz received his Rabbinic ordination and a master’s degree in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brandeis University.

Join us for an in-depth look at the ways in which Jews and Catholics struggle and succeed to transmit cultural and religious identity and commitment from one generation to the next.

Many young people are abandoning church and synagogue at an alarming rate. A significant number of young people in the 18-29 demographic would select “none” if asked for their religious affiliation. Churches and synagogues are failing to attract and retain young people in their pews.

In a recent study conducted by Harvard University, professor Robert Putnam shows, historically, the percentage of Americans who said they had no religious affiliation, known by pollsters as “nones,” was hovering between 5 to 10 percent. He contends that the number of “nones” now has skyrocketed to between 30 to 40 percent among younger Americans. This trend started in the 1990s and continues today. It includes Generation X and Y. While these young “nones” may not belong to a congregation, they are not necessarily atheists. “Many of them are people who would otherwise be in church,” Putnam said. “They have the same attitudes and values as people who are in church, but they grew up in a period in which being religious meant being politically conservative, especially on social issues.”

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan commented on the great challenge that faces the church as he prepared to enter the conclave that will elect the next pope. “While more and more people have no problem at all with Jesus Christ, they love and accept him as their Lord and Savior, they do have problems with the church. More and more people don’t see the need for the church,” he said.

Every priest in the Diocese of Camden, and most rabbis in our area, have heard the lament from parents that they cannot convince their children to come to church/synagogue. It is an issue that concerns religious leaders throughout the world. We hope you will join us on March 20 to explore the problems facing people of faith and discuss ways that Catholics and Jews can address these issues facing our families and hear successful examples in attracting young people to the faith. Jews and Catholics have a great desire to share and pass on the great treasure trove of spirituality and tradition with the next generation came and see how we can do this better.

Youth and Religion: Why Are Younger Generations Avoiding Religion,” will be presented, Wednesday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m. at Katz Jewish Community Center, 1301 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill.

Cost is $10 advance registration and $15 at the door. To pay by mail, send your check to: Catholic-Jewish Commission, 1301 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 or online at www.jcrcsnj.org. For more information about registration, contact Helene Klimberg at 856-751-9500 x1117 or email hklimberg@jfedsnj.org .