Professor Steven Cohen wrote a very intriguing article explaining what he’s learning about my generation of Jews: the 30-something post-Boomer up and coming leaders of the Jewish community. What makes this generation so different from the one ahead of us? What’s new and different these days?
Cohen explains that there are four major trends he sees in today’s Jewish young adults:
- Many engaged Jews under the age of forty emphasize, more than their elders and predecessors, Jewish purpose. They have… expanded social justice activities, engaged in various cultural endeavors, undertaken Judaic learning singly and in groups, and established a powerful and significant presence on the Internet and other new media.
- They express much-diminished sensitivity to matters of external threats to Jews, Judaism, Israel, and the Jewish people. Intermarriage, anti-Semitism, Israel’s security, and campaigns to delegitimize Israel may strongly motivate older engaged American Jews. But such issues excite relatively little resonance among their younger counterparts.
- Affiliation with a particular movement – denominational, ideological, or otherwise – is less prevalent for the younger generation of engaged American Jews. Conventional belonging to anything, not just things Jewish, is neither automatic nor self-justifying.
- Engaged young Jewish adults resist what they see as coercive expectations. They see once widely accepted normative standards – such as in-marriage and support of Israel – as optional, tentative, and, at best, a means to expressing higher Jewish purpose.
As Tevye said to his wife in Fiddler on the Roof, “it’s a new world, Golda.” And that was a long time ago… Imagine how surprised they’d be to see what Judaism looks like today.
Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman