Identity, Mishegas, Politics

Jay Michaelson's New Spirituality Column in the Forward

Zeek Editor Jay Michaelson debuts a new Spirituality Column in The Forward this week. His first one addresses the “new Jewish spirituality in America” and includes a shoutout to Jewschool and Jewlicious. If you missed his “How We Connect” from this past Feb., it’s worth checking out as well.

There is a new Jewish spirituality growing in America — or rather, there are multiple ones.
Neo-Hasidim and young Chabad Lubavitchers, “Jews in the Woods” and Adventure Rabbis, this new batch of spiritual entrepreneurs is less a movement than an anti-movement: a decentralized, post-denominational and, indeed, in a sense, post-ideological generation of “New Jews” who are neither “bowling alone” (we might say, davening alone) nor joining the established leagues, but creating their own communities in major cities, in far-flung rural settings and, increasingly, online. Where costly, sincere and massive efforts to “reach the unaffiliated” have faltered, spirituality — here defined as broadly as possible — often has found success.
Whom do I have in mind? The new generation of “Chavurah Jews,” meeting in lay-led prayer groups and retreats in a collective and “DIY” (do-it-yourself) way; what might be called “OMG! Jews,” after the path-breaking Reboot study of religious affiliation in “Generation Y,” which showed how younger Jews pick and choose from multiple sources of religious and cultural identity rather than look to a single source (such as a synagogue) for communal and spiritual life; Online Jews, such as the Jewschool and Jewlicious communities, each widely diverse groups of younger Jews for whom “online” and “real world” are not two separate domains but a single continuum, and the new generation of Jewish spiritual seekers, for whom the clich?s of the 1960s are literary history but who are nonetheless inspired by that period’s curiosity, openness to multiple traditions and emphasis on lived experience rather than on inherited dogma. These are some of the characteristics of the new Jewish spiritualities: decentralized, experience-centered (some would say narcissistically so), integrating wisdom from other traditions and from non-“spiritual” aspects of life, and defying of easy categorization.

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