This is a bit of a cop out post this week, but I’ve been reflecting. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who said, “It’s a weird time to be young and Jewish. Then again, it’s always a weird time to be young and Jewish.” I think he’s probably right. There’s so much attached to Jewish identity: religious observance, thoughts on Israel, favorite foods, geographic location, and even speech patterns. We’re an old people–5770 and counting!–but we’re constantly being reborn and reshaped as a society. And that sculpting happens with the most malleable of minds and spirits: the youth.
If you had to name one popular Jewish thing that you could be sure all of your young Jewish friends would know about, what would it be?
Did you say JDate? Because I did. Even if you’re 16, you probably know somebody (who knows somebody) who got married on JDate. 25 years ago, when our parents were dating, getting set up with a nice Jewish boy/girl probably meant less stalking and more time trying to convince a rabbi to make an introduction. But JDate has become a staple in young, Jewish (single) culture. I’m hard pressed to think of a Jewish friend who hasn’t at least tried it once.
What about Jewish family life? It was easy to be a Jewish kid when your entire family was Jewish–you didn’t know any better. But now that intermarriage is so common, Jewish kids are suddenly sitting in front of Christmas trees, maybe trying to justify them as Chanukah bushes, but more likely conflicted about who they are and what they believe. Of course, my [Italian, converted] Jewish mother sees no problem: “It’s perfect! One side of the family gets you for all the Catholic holidays, the other side gets you for all the Jewish holidays. No fighting!” It’s not quite that easy. How has intermarriage (and conversion) factored into your experience as a young Jew?
Wait for it, wait for it… Birthright Israel. Like JDate, everybody knows someone who knows someone who’s been on Birthright. It’s made a huge impact on our society of young Jews. And it’s just a small part of being really only about the second or third generation to grow up with Israel as a dedicated homeland. With each generation that passes, thoughts about Israel morph and change. Where do young Jews stand now?
How about the [hip] Jewish media? Yep, New Voices included. But also other faves like Jewcy and HEEB, among countless others. Is it this crowd that’s promoting the idea that it’s cool to be Jewish? Is someone else promoting that idea? Or am I completely wrong in believing that it’s cool to be Jewish? Someone help me out here.
These are only a few of the questions that I have. I really just want to hear you share: what do you think about the idea that it’s a weird time to be young and Jewish in America today?