The Conspiracy

5 Ways to Make Jewish Life Less ‘Clichéd’ from an Actual Millennial

The cliche of Millennials, via


I am a Millennial. I say this proudly. I dance around Jewish tradition, modernity, and practice in a way that Millennials do. I whole-heartedly enjoy my status as a Generation Y’er. At the same time, however, I really don’t like how much of the conversation about how to engage my peers is fundamentally had by people who don’t seem to understand how our system works. And, as a self-confessed Millennial, I would like to share, in response to Rabbi Daniel Korobkin’s “Clichéd Judaism,” based on an article about how Christian Millennials are also facing problems engaging with religious institutions, five ways the establishment generations can make our Judaism less clichéd:

Understand that the world we live in is infinitely more connected than it was before: Our world is connected by the technology we grew up around, and that we have fully integrated into our lives. It connects us to people thousands of miles away, which we cherish. Our connectedness also means that we are more aware of the changing world around us, and are scrambling to find answers to questions about how we should treat the injustices we see in the world. We get to see, through photographs, blog posts, and tweets, a world that is far more complex than you told us it would be, and we need to digest that. Sometimes we come out with answers that you don’t like. We don’t want to take things at face value because in a world where everything can—and should—be thoroughly researched and fact-checked, we can’t just accept what you tell us as reality and move on. Our narratives about everything — history, Israel, identity — have all changed drastically because of the fact that we don’t want to take things for what they are.

Our social structures aren’t crumbling: they’re just radically different from yours. You spend so much time talking and wondering about how Facebook is causing our society to crumble, and wax poetic (sometimes literally) about how social media is causing the degeneration of our lives and social selves.

The effect could not be more the opposite. True, our online friends can never replace real-life interactions, friendships, and relationships, the types of conversations about Jewish law, Jewish philosophy, and Jewish life that once took place in exclusive yeshivot or amongst those who had the energy and financial resources are now taking place in Facebook groups amongst those who are not necessarily going into the clergy or dedicating their lives to Jewish learning or academics. Our social structures include social media intrinsically—we grew up with them. We don’t see them as negative. We can’t live without them, and we don’t see this as a problem. The collaborations and projects that I’ve worked on would never have been possible without the Internet.

Stop saying “Judaism” when you really mean “Orthodox Judaism:” Not all of our Judaism is clichéd, and this is not a problem unique to the Orthodox community. We aren’t choosing to disengage — we want to find engagement elsewhere. We want to make sure that our ([Modern] Orthodox) Judaism is as keen on racial and economic justice as it is about ritual observance. We want to make sure that our liberal values aren’t checked at the doors of our synagogues. We are not growing up in the secluded Jewish bubble that you, the generation that came before us, thinks we are. We are aware of our surroundings, and we want to make sure that our Judaism is able to respond to those adequately. We aren’t forgetting our Judaism or our history, we are making sure that they meet the reality that faces us every day. This, to us, is more authentic. We cannot just enter the same institutions that you did, because they were responding to a different time and to a different group of people with different needs. We have our needs; help us address them.

Don’t simplify: We don’t want stopgap measures that create things in word but not in practice. We want to make sure that our institutions, not just their practices, are committed to the same things we are. We need ways to structurally make our Jewish communities reconcilable with the world around us. We aren’t looking for black-and-white definitions of who is and is not “religious” because we grew up in a world where that the term has a much broader definition than we thought as children, and made the changes in our life necessary. We also aren’t afraid to change our traditions and develop a new language to discuss and how they relate to our (post-)modern world.

We don’t want to be left out of the conversation: We just don’t have the same resources that you do, and we feel shunned because we don’t feel that we are taken seriously. We don’t let the anti-Semitism of our past (or our present) stand in the way of our pride for being Jewish. We are tired of conversations that center solely around how to combat and be on the defensive, of narratives of persecution. Instead, want to build and support. We are proud of who we are, and want to contribute to the conversation about our Jewish future. We are tired of looking back: we want to look forward. Let us.



Amram Altzman is a student at List College.

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