Silcoff's Continuity Critique

Somehow, amidst all the hustle and bustle of making eggnog and buying tinsel — er I mean, eating jelly donuts and playing with spinning tops, G&P editor Mireille Silcoff’s week-long residency at Haaretz this past December completely slipped beneath our radar.
How could we neglect to post this gem?

For starters, I don’t think the majority of the young (and I mean teens and those in their twenties) today, Jewish or not Jewish, see religious institutional affiliation as synonymous with spirituality. I would venture that many see this kind of affiliation as the opposite of spiritual. Many youngsters in North America are interested in a more episodic religious experience, and they value mixing and matching much more than subsequent generations. Among the Jewish young, this is not because they are a generation of “self haters” or because they are “lost.” It is because they have grown up in a world often much more diverse from that in which their parents came of age. Their style of Jewish identity-creation is reflecting that – so maybe some feel “most spiritual” in some yoga class, and maybe others feel most pridefully Jewish watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. People can love it or lump it, it’s what’s happening.
In the last couple of years, a lot of Jewish institutions have approached me, asking how they could get more young people through their doors. I have been asked: “what should we do with our youth programming?” I tell them I am not sure about anything other than the fact that no red-blooded youth likes being “programmed” to.
I have also said something that brings me back to my response to yesterday’s question: Stop blowing so much effort and money on programs that exist with the sole aim of making Jews meet and marry and have babies with other Jews. These programs don’t work. A twenty-two year old can sniff a matchmaking event wrapped up as a hip hop block party a mile away. If all that time and effort was put towards cultural creation rather than this trial at demographic preservation, I think more youths might get engaged.
One of your readers brought up Heeb magazine, which I find interesting. People can get their undies in a knot about that magazine, but, even if it is very different from the magazine I edit, I think it a fascinating product – it’s a magazine hatched by the ironic youth culture of the 1990s and the honest desire to graft this culture to something Jewish. It is also a relatively grass-roots, non-institutional product, and thus, a great attractor for many kids. They like the magazine because it makes them feel part of something relevant to them on a few levels, including the purely pop cultural. This is a good thing. If people want to get the young to feel functionally Jewish (and not just Jewish on one or two days a year), I could think of thousands of worse ways of kindling interest than that magazine.


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