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Beery calls for "enrichment" over "continuity" in the North American Jewish community

In case you missed it, be sure to check out a recent essay on The North American Jewish Community by Blogs of Zion creator Ariel Beery:

I think one of the major factors contributing to the splintering of the Jewish community and the resultant self-isolation of the denominationally affiliated youth is the focus many Jewish organizations put on ‘continuity’ instead of on enrichment. By focusing on continuity, Jewish organizations invest the majority of their time and capital reaching out to the unaffiliated through attractively packaged programming, working on the assumption that those already committed in one way or another to Judaism have already been won over. In doing so, the Jewish world paradoxically provides incentives for non-affiliation with specific communities—hence the ever-growing amount of “hipster” projects funded by institutional organizations—leaving those affiliated youths without the resources they need to further develop their communities.

Beery also makes mention to his forthcoming magazine, Present Tense: Generation X Jewish Life, which aims to “explore issues gripping the Jewish community in news, feature, literary and critical pieces.” This man is on the move and not stopping anytime soon. Stay tuned in the next few months to see for yourself about the magazine.

14 thoughts on “Beery calls for "enrichment" over "continuity" in the North American Jewish community

  1. Ginsberg: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
    dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
    angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
    who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
    who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated
    Beery: I saw the best minds of my generation tune out from general Jewish involvement on campus,
    dragging themselves off into isolation,
    either to the backrooms of the Columbia University Hillel, or to meetings of often hysterical partisan organizations,
    or to mini-rallies where a speaker would preach to the choir.

  2. Just what the Jewish world needs. Another magazine.
    Given that the term “Generation X” was coined by Douglas Coupland in a book published in, I believe 1994, about a group of twenty-somethings… this magazine is targeted towards or about Jews in their mid to late 30’s?
    Perhaps we could stop hyper-intellectualizing the current state of affairs, and just enjoy oursleves for once?

  3. You got the reference, Daniel. Ginsburg is one of my favorites.
    We’re building a magazine for Jews in the 20s and 30s–and would love to hear from you here at Jewschool what topics you think need to be addressed in a longer, edited form: [email protected]
    It won’t be an over-intellectualized journal–though we certainly hope to dig deep at times, and keep it fun at others. News, views, reviews and culture.

  4. In doing so, the Jewish world paradoxically provides incentives for “non-affiliation with specific communities—hence the ever-growing amount of “hipster” projects funded by institutional organizations—leaving those affiliated youths without the resources they need to further develop their communities.”
    I’d hardly call the increase in funding available for peer-led continuity programs “growth.” Also, some of these programs aren’t “hipster” in nature. Just because they address gen-x and millenials doesn’t mean they’re “hipster.” There can be sincere, independent, non-institutional/denominational grass roots Jewish initiatives that are both continuity and enrichment at the same time…
    Mroeover, when you consider how much money is spent on youth in formal enrichement in the way of Hebrew school, it pales in comparison. Remeber that every building we construct, we spend millions of dollars to create stunning facilities that nobody goes to. Instad of arguing that one is more worthwhile, let’s persuade someone to not build another Holocaust Museum and spend the millions saved on both approaches, which are both valid for different audiences, and stipulate that the money be spent on programming that goes where young Jews are physically and culturally, rather than spendnig on programs where we want them to be…

  5. rushkoff wrote “the gen x reader” and he’s in his 40s…i would actually advise dropping the gen x thing because it invokes yuppie 2.0 in my mind; and that’s not so much this generation

  6. Word–we’ve been speaking about dropping the Gen X moniker for a bit. We’re using it until we can think of another good subtitle that can covey to our audience that we’re a magazine focused on young, that is, pre-kids and home, Jewish life. Unfortunately the best one, New Jew Review, has been taken.
    Any ideas? We’d love to hear’em.

  7. Please don’t reach out to me by demographic. It’s not enough.
    20s and 30s is not the same thing, as I’ve discovered through amusing dating experiences. Attract me with themes, ideas, feelings, connections – not as a marketing niche defined by age.
    Heeb works with people of many age groups because it’s identity is not about age, but about sensibility, which transcends age.
    How about a magazine for Jews who object to market analysis based stereotyping? We could read about all the people statistics miss…
    Capture the power of story by focusing on individual visions, rather than collective ones. Serving a niche market is not a compelling vision, it’s a business plan.
    my two cents….

  8. At my shul, I’m in charge of a social group that we’ve named Loosely Defined. It is for jews (and not quite jews) in their 30s and 40s (but we don’t exclude those in their 20s or 50s) without kids (but some people have babies.) Our progamming focuses on creating community and being involved in the greater jewish community. Instead of something catchy, we are just loosely defined and I think that works for a lot of the jewish stuff I affiliate with.

  9. I have to agree with Charles on this one – I prefer meeting people through shared interests and not targeted events. Some people may only want to hang out with single people of their age range, and it doesn’t matter what they do, so long as they are meeting people to date; however, I’ve had the most meaningful experiences meeting people at multigenerational activities that attract people of all ages, including: Hazon’s annual Jewish bike ride, National Havurah Institute and Elat Chayyim.
    [Though of course I have had positive experiences at 20’s and 30’s events, and negative experiences at multi-generational events that I was the youngest person there].
    Unfortunately, for Beery and others who want to have their voices heard, they need to convince funders that they are doing something new and exciting, and often they need to appear to be engaging disconnected single Jews. For more on that topic, make sure to check out Mobius’s recent letter to the editor at the Jewish week.

  10. Charles and Sarah you’re right in a way–shared interests are often much more appealing of a way to meet people and work together on projects.
    But on the other hand, as a product of Hashomer Hatzair youth movement culture, I really do believe in the power of youth to change the world. I believe that the very experience of being young lets you see things qualitatively differently. You don’t see from here what you see from there–both ways. So by expressing our youth (what’s left of it) we’re bringing in a very important element which comes with lack of experience, or lack of routine, or whatever it is; an idealism that keeps things fresh and imagines and pursues the impossible.
    The thing about enrichment, I think, is that it still focuses on the youth, but it doesn’t compromise on content in order to get to those on the way out. A philosophy of enrichment holds that those people on the way out will have a reason to stay in if they found meaning in the Jewish world–and we’d like to give it to them, packaged in a way that is accessible, without sacrificing depth for accessibility. That’s going to be a hard balance to strike, and it is what we’re wrestling with now as we edit first drafts for the magazine.

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