At the Jewish Outreach Institute, we seek to welcome newcomers and engage those on the periphery of Jewish life. Increasingly, Jews in their 20s, 30s, and 40s fit into this latter group, feeling no need to affiliate with a synagogue, and with no other way to connect with other young Jews. As a member of this demographic, I often wonder what organizations can do to engage us, to get us involved in “something Jewish” so as to not completely lose our cultural identity, while not making us feel obligated to join a synagogue.
While in college at the University of Delaware, I attended events at both the Hillel and Chabad; but outside of college, Jewish experiences for those in my generation are not as readily available. There is also an increasing perspective that my generation doesn’t want to have to go searching for opportunities, we want them easily accessible.
A recent article in the Minnesota Post shows that many are starting to think along these lines, and some are beginning to take action. Following some of the basic principles of JOI’s Big Tent Judaism Coalition, as well as the model created by Tempo, the Minnesota Opera’s young adults group, Rabbi Avi Olitzky (son of JOI Executive Director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky) has started a young-adults group at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, MN, designed to reach young adults where they are. The group’s events include Jewish happy hours and young-adult Sabbaths, with the goal of reaching young Jewish adults where they are.
The work of Rabbi Olitzky and others is a step in the right direction, and I am excited to see other groups offer opportunities to young Jews in the 20s, 30s, and 40s to reinvigorate our interest not necessarily in Judaism, but in being Jewish together.
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