Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Why aren’t We Jewish?

Posted by lchaimlover on July 27, 2007

In some of my last posts, we have been discussing young adults choosing to not be Jewish. While some critics of our generation have said we have lost our Kol Yisroel, and therefore we don’t choose our Judaism anymore. So I asked myself why, and then, I asked some friends.

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The main image of the YAD division of Jewish Federation of Richmond, Va.

In an area such as the Silicon Valley, where the Jewish community is small and there are only a few organizations to go around, one would expect the young Jews of the area to be involved, especially when there are so many organizations that follow us through college. But once college is over, what have we got?

Friends of mine who have attempted to get involved in the Jewish community have had the same criticisms, the community asks so much of us, from time to money to favors. But what do we get back? If one is not explicitly involved in a synagogue, but still looking to be connected in the Jewish community, mostly organizations just want our money. Those organizations that do promise a much needed community, again only really want our money, with no return on our investment. If it isn’t $$, then they just want a warm body to show up to their event so they look good.

From what I understand, the largest group with disposable income, in the Silicon Valley, is the 22-35 age range. And the one group that has the least access to a community in the Silicon Valley is that same range. And while the monetary aspects of our group has not escaped some of our Jewish Organization Friends, the community possibilities are still quite lacking. I applaud Congregation Beth David YAD’s efforts to create a community among our demographic, but what of the Jews who don’t want to do things through a synagogue?

The JSN has learning opportunities, but nothing directly geared towards Young Adults yet. And south of Stanford, Chabad offers few options for the Young Adult Community, and nothing specifically meant to engage us. And SVYAD is a fund raising organization (it is a division of the Federation), focused on the Young Adult community, and has little intention of filling the niche market opportunity beyond Connect events. One article I read suggested that is can cost up to $30,000 (per year) for the “Jewish experience” and while I am not inclined to disagree, shouldn’t they lure us in with something before they start charging us? Hillel has spoiled us with the idea that there is something the Jewish community has to offer in return for our eventual donations.

While these organizations are all worthy causes, Young Adults are savy, and we want a return on our investment. It may sound selfish, but you are asking us for decent pledges, are you not? We want Shabbat dinners, dates, people to make Jewish jokes with, you know, a community.

So in conclusion, have we lost our Kol Yisroel? No, we just can’t find it.

Author’s Note: I am a very involved young Jewish person, this article was requested by those of us who aren’t. You (the Jewocracy) wonder where we are and why we aren’t affiliated with you, this was the answer.

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32 Responses to “Why aren’t We Jewish?”

  1. whitefrodude said

    I agree. I have been involved in the Jewish community for a few years now and am very rarely given the time of day when not being asked for money. It would be nice to get a call once in a while from a local rabbi or a federation member to just ask “how’s your day going?” or “How’s life?” No we don’t get anything. And the rare times we do get those questions asked, our answers are drowned by the next question of “So, how much will you be donating today?”

  2. minsky said

    Why aren’t We Jewish?
    Because we have no G-d.

    We are alone, and our Jewishness is cultural, ethnic, but no longer spiritual, it is a relic of our evoluationary past. We can’t even talk about G-d, or faith.

    Just look at the number of comments on my preceding post. https://oybay.wordpress.com/2007/07/26/hashem-an-obituary/

  3. Oyster said

    I strongly disagree, Minsky. There are plenty of examples of strong Jewish communities where religiosity isn’t the main focus (whether any of these movements, like the kibbutzim, are ‘sustainably Jewish’ is a different matter). I think the main problem is lack of Jewish identity, and the ‘established Jewish community’ not getting it.

    And I’m not holding my breath waiting for the ‘Jewocracy’ to get it. They’re somewhere between ineffective and clueless. If you look at the national trend, young Jewish adults that still care are creating their own groups and communities. Locally, you have the Mission Minyan, the Bay Area Tribe, and even Oy Bay. If we wait for the older generation to get their act together, then there won’t be any Jewish community left to salvage.

    As I wrote earlier, there sometimes can be a disconnect between what Jewish organizations preach, and what they practice.

  4. minsky said

    I can only paraphrase Theodore Lessing, once G-d is out of the equation, being Jewish is indistinguishable from masochism.

    When Jews loose their connection with G-d and Judaism, then callamity befals us. While Berlin and Vienna were awash with assimilated German Jews, Lessing bemoaned the innevitability of disaster.

    I think there is a danger in extapolating our present secular jewish experience, into all of Jewish history. We are secular in America, and we think Jews were always secular and always had it good. Its wrong.

    It isn’t so much that secularism as a fad hasn’t come and faded before, but just the regularity of what comes with the ups and downs. The regularity of falling into naive naps of sweet dreams, and waking up to frightening nightmares.

    I think a secular jewish identity has yet to become a reality. One generation, is not enough for a track record.

    I maintain, that G-d is entirely absent or rarely referred to, in Jewish discussions. G-d is silent, on all levels. From Tikkun, to present day Yeshiva buchers. Intellectually, there is no G-d here.

    Intellectually, Can anyone trully place Telushkin on par with Arieh Kaplan?

    Why? Because Telushkin propagates the secular myth of being jewish by listening to myth; the Richard Rorty answer to man’s anguish – “narrative”. Arieh Kaplan, on the other hand, pursues G-d, and teaches other Jews how to do so.

    Which is vibrant, and which is dead? At first glance, Telushkin is a best seller, and mentioning his name critically, makes me cringe. Yet this is more reflective of the slavish treatment we give our Jewocrats, than any criticla thought on my part. Because when the thought kicks in, I cant hesitate to but see the different futures presented by Telushkin vs Kaplan, and then I go back to Lessing, who looked upon all those converts to Lutheranism, and foresaw their eventual fate.

  5. Thanks lchaimlover for posting on this. I’ve been meaning to write something like this and just haven’t. As a leader in CBDYAG thanks for the shout out as well.

    A few things I’d like to point out about Congregation Beth David’s Young Adult Group (CBDYAG). These numbers are my guesstimates from my insider information. 85-99% of it’s participants are not members of the Synagogue. 70-90% Haven’t set foot in the Shul, and that numbers goes down if you take out being at the Shul for a CBDYAG event. This means most of our mailing list and participants aren’t affiliated. Many of our event are Free, or we only charge the cost of the activity as if you we’re doing the event on your own, ex. cost of movie ticket. While the Synagogue is located in the South Bay, we get participants and interest in event from Monterey to Oakland.

    As it’s CBDYAG’s primary leader for around a year, who attends Shabbat services at Congregation Beth David regularly as well as holidays and other congregational events, I wasn’t a member until just recently.

    I also didn’t start getting involved until the Assistant Rabbi asked one day at Kiddish if I would consider it, and he followed up that week. College programs like Hillel focus a lot on outreach, constantly asking you to come be involved. When that structure leaves and no one is asking for you to be involved many of our demographic don’t feel a need to seek it out, assuming that they will be approached. The Bay Area actually has a sizable Jewish Population. But we don’t have a “shetl” or neighborhood, we’re scattered. We find things to connect to locally, we don’t go out of our way to find the Jewish thing, regardless of how many Jewish things are going on a short distance away.

    Every Shabbos us Young Adults sit together, and include any new faces and the Rabbi’s make it a point to come say hi. Now we’ve already made it into the building, but they aren’t forgetting those that are involved, which I think is equally as important as outreach.

    Shabbat Shalom.

  6. whitefrodude said

    I think the comments left on this post emphasize the point lchaimlover is making about the Jews in the area caring only about what they want. Instead of using this post to comment about the situation being presented, it is being used to promote ones own post or to talk up one’s own organization.

  7. FriarYid said

    Minsky,

    I can’t decide if you’re saying G-d is the answer or the problem. Maybe both? Sorry to keep referring back to my old buzzwords, but I think the problem for our generation of Jews, especially in America, is that a lot of us, particularly the unaffiliated, feel an intellectual (and perhaps emotional) disconnect between “Judaism” (R) and what we believe, know, etc, to be true, including the nature or existence of G-d. The challenge is how one can proceed from there, and how one can maintain any Jewish connection once one has stepped into a “post-modern” Judaism where God is, if not absent, then certainly not the primary focus. A Judaism without G-d is indeed a tricky thing, and can easily diverge into masochism, or nihilism, or basic masturbation, intellectual and otherwise. But by the same token, this evolution of a G-dless Judaism has, IMO, been a direct response to the problems of G-dless Jews trying to reconcile what their faith says with what they actually believe- or can’t.

    Until we all figure out the existential answers of how to live as both doubters and Jews, I have to believe that organizations like the ones listed above, or people like Telushkin (who personally is no more to my taste than Kaplan) are the best chance of keeping American Jews engaged with the culture and customs of their people. Are the two cs “better” than the Jewish religion? Not necessarily. Can they work as a functional substitute? Not exactly, but I’d say they’re better than nothing. I don’t care about halacha; it makes no difference to me if a guy gets a mitzvah or commits an aveirah. But if there are practices, traditions, acts, that he can engage with and perpetuate in his life and with his family, and that keeps him going and identified as a Jew, and maybe even keeps him connected to a larger Jewish community, for me that’s nothing but good.

    Hell, I came to Jewish identity through reading Chaim Potok and taking Zohar classes in college. Somebody else might get a Hebrew Hard-on for Shlomo Carlebach or Israeli folk dancing or Hebrew literature or Jewish text study. For me, the primary goal has to be keeping that conversation going and helping young Jews find all sorts of way to “do Jewish.” It doesn’t have to mean “anything goes religion”, but it can mean broadening the spectrum of what is considered a Jewish act (sort of like early Hasidim, where everything was a kind of prayer or devotion). They can figure out the details and personal motivations themselves later on, but if they don’t have some way of maintaining identity itself, there won’t be any options for further development in the first place.

  8. lchaimlover said

    I have to say, I am a little confused on how G-d comes into this particular discussion.

    Minsky: “When Jews loose their connection with G-d and Judaism, then callamity befals us.”
    Friar Yid: “I think the problem for our generation of Jews, especially in America, is that a lot of us, particularly the unaffiliated, feel an intellectual (and perhaps emotional) disconnect between “Judaism””

    You have both missed the point of this post. There are Jews who do want to be involved, they are trying to connect with the community, Hashem or no and while it is true that “organizations like the ones listed above…are the best chance of keeping American Jews engaged with the culture and customs of their people” our generation is completely turned off from these organizations due to the reasons I discussed in the post. Sue, G-d helps, but if his fan club doesn’t want me, why do I want to talk about G-d?

    Since G-d left our presence, a Jew doesn’t need G-d to be a Jew, a Jew needs a community to be a Jew.

    off topic: “Until we all figure out the existential answers of how to live as both doubters and Jews” : isn’t that what Judaism is all about, questioning? Just a thought.

  9. jfriendly said

    So, here’s the deal -there are several problems with the arguments put out; it is one sided and immature to think that the “Jewocracy” should continue to fund parties and social functions without the support of nascent participants. At some point, Daddy stops paying the bills and the kids need to stand on their own as the up and coming community. Synagogue young adults groups exist to attract new members – not for the sole benefit of free Judaism (halakic or social). How long should the “Jewocracy” sustain programs before requiring participation as an adult? (that is a real question – not rhetorical) Someone answer why we shouldn’t be required to pay our way to get a seat at the ‘adults’ table? I don’t see any answers here. Am I missing something?

  10. Lchaimlover said

    I didn’t say that the organizations should support parties, I said they should support a cimmunity for me, so that I have reasons to give my money.
    I didn’t say I wouldn’t give money. I’d be more than happy to support Hillel & Chabad & several other organizations for many years to come, because they provided me a community at one time in my life. I will not support someone who says “Give me money” but gives me nothing back for my investment. I would rather directly support the organizations that do.
    Is it your position that adults require nothing in return for thier money?

  11. jfriendly said

    Yes, I do think that adults should give money to support community building agencies without the expectation that they get anything in return. We have an obligation to provide for those less fortunate and we need to make sure that systems are in place in the (horrible) event that we actually need services. Isn’t the point of tzedakah to give without the expectation of an ROI?

  12. FriarYid said

    If I don’t feel that I belong in the community or that I am part of it, there is no reason for me to want their services. I for one am not interested in being married or buried by a total stranger who just happens to be Jewish. At this stage, I could care less about services: I want actual reasons to be interested in being part of a Jewish community, synagogue-oriented or otherwise. It’s a moot point for me since I have no money to spread around, but if I did, I would be more inclined to give to Jewish causes or organizations I can actually identify with or actively want to support rather than merely giving to sustain agencies I have no interest or stake in.

    But I guess that’s the difference between viewing it as a strictly tzedaka thing versus an investment towards creating and fostering a community thing. One has less strings (and expectations) attached.

  13. FriarYid said

    Someone answer why we shouldn’t be required to pay our way to get a seat at the ‘adults’ table?

    I would say one of the issues we’re dealing with here is the question of who should be trying to attract who- twentysomethings are constantly hearing that they’re the future of the Jewish people, AND that they’re the key demographic everyone is so concerned about. They are also the ones that are going to, in time, be keeping all the communities going, financially and otherwise. So while I can understand some board members of various organizations being concerned about the potential for being ripped off by people that just want to get away with not paying dues (financially and otherwise), as a whole it seems like a bad, and frankly silly reason to avoid trying to appeal to their supposed target demographic. In a perfect world, the problem of 20-something Jews feeling either alienated or ignored by the Jewocracy wouldn’t exist, and the Jewocracy wouldn’t bristle at the suggestion that it would take some work and creativity on their part to help bridge the gap. The reality is that people need motivations to choose a particular shul and/or organization, and those that resist trying to specifically appeal to young Jews, no matter how legitimate their motivations, are going to reap what they sow. I would go even further and say that the Jewocracy needs Jewish youth more than vice-versa. If young and interested Jews don’t get what they want from preexisting institutions, they will wind up creating their own, quite possibly to the older ones’ detriment, particularly in the long term.

    Slightly off topic: This discussion reminds me of something Temple Emanu-el in SF did a few years ago: they gave away free memberships for a year to any new members. Part of the reasoning was just what Lchaimlover mentioned; that young Jews want to get a return on their investment before they actually commit to a community. Apparently, it was fairly successful. Of course, there were some key details: Emanu-el has a huge membership paying a lot of dues, so they could afford it, and this was mostly done to attract families, not young singles (and they wound up getting a fair amount of flack for it- though whether that was specifically a symptom of Jewocracy isn’t clear to me). In that respect we come back to the same old problem: the emphasis always seems to be on families, and other people (including twenty-somethings) just sort of fall through the cracks.

  14. jfriendly said

    tzedakah is a gift — no strings attached from the giver. People way smarter than me have been building community for way longer than I have been around – I don’t see any reason to reinvent the wheel. The system can always get better, but wouldn’t it be better instead of sitting on the sidelines and telling people what they are doing wrong to become part of the solution not perpetuate a problem. Rabbis and others would love us to just show up — show up a few times and these people aren’t strangers anymore.

  15. FriarYid said

    I don’t have an issue with tzedakah as a concept, but I don’t think that it’s enough of a solution. Young Jews feeling ignored because the shuls won’t recognize them and work with them as a specific audience can’t just be fixed by telling the young ones to suck it up and join a shul, with the promise that once they do everything will work out. I think there are bigger issues going on here, and the problem of a lot of Jews just opting out does perhaps demand more effort and attention to attract them. Don’t reinvent the wheel per se, but don’t treat it as business as usual, either.

  16. jfriendly said

    This is so off my issue BUT…Most synagogues have tiered memberships for new members, young families and established ones. I’m pretty sure Sinai is giving free High Holiday tickets out this year. And I think Beth David did that last year too. But why by the cow if you get the milk for free? Jews are affiliate under pressure — there is none here. You can go outside and be as inspired by our mountains and coastline (admittedly sometimes maybe even more) than going into a service. But, it’s good to belong “where everybody knows your name” and showing up makes a difference to others. I don’t always find spirituality in synagogue, but I always find community — whether I need it or not. And isn’t that the point. Kind of like spiritual insurance.
    Back to my issue…why not give tzedakah? Do you only give if you can get an ROI? Shouldn’t it be for the good feeling of knowing you provided for something outside yourself. If for no other reason than to know that you helped someone else who is worse off than you? And, tzedakah isn’t a concept it is an action — social action, tikkun olam — donating time and money. Both are key.

  17. Oyster said

    FriarYid:

    f young and interested Jews don’t get what they want from preexisting institutions, they will wind up creating their own, quite possibly to the older ones’ detriment, particularly in the long term.

    They are! Look at the Mission Minyan, Oy Bay, and the Bay Area Tribe! Instead of sitting on our hands waiting for the Jewocracy to ‘get it’, we’re taking matters into our own hands!

    JFriendly:

    donating time and money. Both are key.

    Precisely! So why does the Federation system, the de-facto leading organization for most local and regional Jewish communities, only reward young Jews who donate $1000+ (the horribly-named “Ben-Gurion Society”; Ben-Gurion, the socialist, would be rolling in his grave!), but they give bupkes to young Jews who volunteer their time to the same degree? Sounds like the “show me da money” problem that LchaimLover is addressing.

    People way smarter than me have been building community for way longer than I have been around

    Yeah, and they’re so darn smart that Jews are assimilating faster than rats fleeing a sinking ship. The previous generation dropped the ball. Let’s face it; the established Jewish leadership has a real problem on its hands. And admitting to that problem is the first step to overcoming it. And young Jews who realize this problem, are going to be wary to blindly support organizations that are failing.

  18. FriarYid said

    Oyster- just my point. And the creation of these new institutions should be making the more established ones take note- because unless something changes, ten and twenty years down the road, the institutions presently ascendant, or at least quasi-dominant, will be effectively replaced or co-opted by the upstarts. Mission Minyan will have all the young and slightly-less-than-young families, while the old school shuls are “stuck” with senior citizens and a smattering of their sometimes-committed-children. And when the old ones pass on, that will probably be the death-knell of a lot of congregations. Can you say “Temple Beth-Emanu-Tamid-Shalom-Israel-Judea?”

    Some people criticize “start-up minyans,” (and I think some of the same issues apply to organizations that aren’t explicitly religious) but it’s basic supply and demand, and if the Jewocracy doesn’t start paying attention, there will come a time when they don’t have the critical mass or financial support to sustain themselves (especially in a place like the Bay Area, which has a fair number of Jews but who are spread around through a lot of cities, and with not that many options within each city). This will be a shame, but it will also be their own fault.

    If these groups want to survive and continue, they need to figure out why people are dissatisfied and try to work to change it, either by trying to emulate successful models, or joining with them (say, individual congregations with “mini-Minyans” that then meet up with the “host Minyan” once a month?*). Otherwise, they just won’t be here. Sad but true.

    ——————————–
    *Sorry to get too “Borg” on you.

  19. IGiveFreely said

    I am new to this chain, and after reading it, it just makes me sad. As a young adult myself (I am 26) to think that this is how little my generation thinks of tzedakah… I am trying to think of a better word, but sad really seems to sum it up.

    You all speak of getting something back for your donation to a good cause. That sickens me. Like many other bar mitzvahs, I received some money for mine. I gave 10% of it to tzedakah because it was expected of me. When it came time to pick where it went, there was no thought to “this agency did something for me” or “what will this agency do for me now that I am giving.” I gave money at that time to the American Red Cross, a group with which I had no affiliation, just because I thought they did good work. Now that I am older and have a steady income, I have joined a synagogue, and am a donor to several local Jewish (and non-Jewish) agencies. This is my responsibility as a Jew.

    You all speak of forcing the “Jewocracy” to change. Has any of you tried sitting on a Board of a synagogue? Perhaps a Federation young adults group? I would bet that the answer is basically no. And yet, here you sit, criticizing everything that is basically being done for no other reason than to insure that you have a Jewish future, and that your children can live a Jewish life. If you want to change things, get involved, become a donor, find out where your money is going, sit on a committee, and really change things. Writing a blog that you feel disconnected because the Jewish community is asking you to give a little back isn’t helping.

  20. TheEternalQuestionPersists said

    If you give so freely then you would have known, that the majority of people who post here don’t just sit on one comitte, but two, and in some cases even three. The people here are involved in the planning of some of the most influential events in the Bay Area and are actually directly aware as to where the money goes. These people, give so much back of themselves, that what speaks out is their frustration at what is taking place and their feeling of helplessness to change things even when they are directly involved. In some sense, it almost feels as though you’re the one that has never served on a comitee, or gave money, and most certainly, not Freely!

  21. Friar Yid said

    IGiveFreely-

    Sorry that you find all this so disturbing. For what it’s worth, part of the reason the tzedaka line doesn’t really resonate with me personally is that I wasn’t raised being part of any Jewish community, so the idea of giving money to the shul for no other reason than “it’s the shul” is sort of a foreign concept.

    I think the issue here is not that people object to tzedaka, but that they don’t want their contributions to synagogues and federations to be framed as PURELY tzedaka, and thereby removed from any possibility of reciprocity. Sorry if it sounds harsh, but from where I’m sitting, this almost looks like a cop-out. It’s not necessarily about, “what will this do for me”- the perception of a lack of attention to 20something Jews is a serious oversight on behalf of Jewish organizations, and something that needs to be worked on, particularly since we’re constantly hearing that it’s the most troublesome demographic. It’s not, “why donate to the Red Cross, I don’t get sick,” it’s “hey, the Red Cross is ignoring a bunch of people that need help; I have a problem with that.” One of the ways to get the attention of such organizations is through their pocketbooks. Guilt-tripping people for not giving money to charity misses the point- the concern, and it’s a legitimate one, is about where the attention and resources are being focused.

    And incidentally- part of why I, at least, feel free to criticize what I see as not working is because, when it comes to the Jewish future thing, I don’t owe anyone a thing, money or otherwise.

  22. lchaimlover said

    jfriendly: i am taking your points very seriously and am currently writing a post that deals with exactly what you are discussing. Look for it soon.

    I Give Freely: I not only sit on a board at one organization, but on committees at a few others, have worked for several organizations in the Bay Area, and am a donor for several more. Please don’t lecture me on what I do and do not do enough of as a Jew. Writing about my friends’ issues on not feeling connected is exactly the thing to do if I feel it might help create a ripple in the pond.

  23. Oyster said

    IGiveFreely:

    to think that this is how little my
    generation thinks of tzedakah, I am trying to think of a better
    word, but sad really seems to sum it up.

    Perhaps we can commiserate, for I too am disgusted. By Jews who think
    that there are only two values in Judaism, tzedakah and tikkun olam,
    and conveniently forget about the rest (ahem, community! ahem).

    I gave 10% of it to tzedakah because it was expected
    of me.

    Nice pat on your own back. If I had any way of verifying who you are,
    I just might be impressed. Otherwise, I will follow the hallowed
    Internet assumption that you might as well be a dog with a penchant for
    keyboard-chewing. So if you’ll be so kind as to avoid your ad hominem
    attacks on me and my friends on this blog, I’ll return the
    courtesy. Let’s just stick to the points of one another’s arguments,
    yes?

    there was no thought to this agency did something for me or what will
    this agency do for me now that I am giving

    That’s true, for a work of tzedakah or a charity. Tell me,
    IGiveFreely, is the Jewish community one big charity? Or is the Jewish
    community a network of individuals, shuls, organizations, Federations,
    friends, families, etc.? If you think of the Jewish community as
    nothing but one big charity, then perhaps you should reconsider. It’s
    exactly that reduction of all of Jewish life to one big checkbook that
    turns away increasingly-assimilated young Jews, for which the
    assumption of “they’ll give because its expected of them” won’t hold.

    If the Jewish community isn’t just one big charity, then its some sort
    of society. An individual in a society strikes a social contract
    (you’ll excuse my indulgence in goyishe philosophers, yes?), where
    certain innate rights are forfeited to the society, for which the
    individual receives benefits in return. This is not rocket
    science. This is philosophy 101. So please, it is not so strange for a
    young Jew to want more from their Jewish society/community than
    solicitations. How about an invitation to a Shabbat dinner?

    Your second paragraph is riddled with ad hominem attacks and
    ridiculous assumptions about who writes or reads this blog, so I’ll
    try to salvage a debatable point out of it:

    Writing a blog that you feel disconnected because the Jewish
    community is asking you to give a little back isn’t helping.

    If you read any of a myriad of other Jewish blogs, you’d know that
    it’s not just us poor fog-covered Jews on Oy Bay that kvetch about
    this problem. It’s a wider phenomena. And guess what? It wasn’t the
    young Jews of today that caused the rampant assimilation, the
    dismantling of Jewish educational infrastructure, and prioritization
    on saving everyone but ourselves. That was the previous generation. So
    stop blaming us.

    And writing for a blog is part of the answer. Any government runs
    better and with less corruption when there’s sunshine on it. And who
    will give you unfiltered straight-talk about the Federations, or any
    other Jewish organization, for that matter? We will. Because we are
    truly independent and have a thirst for truth. There’s no other news
    source like Oy Bay in the Bay Area for the Jewish community. If you
    don’t see any value in that, then you don’t see any value in
    journalism.

  24. jlifer fo' sho' said

    Wow. As someone who knows this group intimately, I can safely say IGiveFreely has assessed the Oy Bay group completely inaccurately. I am a member of the non-Jeiwish media, and today, when calling a synagogue president about a story for said media, the names of several of these very connected, very involved Jews came up. Name any Jewish organization in the area, and someone from this talented group (now I’m just boasting) is sure to be involved. What do they say about making assumptions?

  25. JB said

    Most of you on here know who I am, but for the sake of keeping with the anonymous thing, if you don’t, drop Oyster a line and he will give you my contact info. I have this offer to make to everyone who has contributed to this chain: it is obvious that all is not perfect in “Jewish Young Adult Land” and I, at least, would like to make an effort to make things better, even if they will probably not be perfect. So, please contact me and let me know what specific things I can realistically do to make things better. We will still fundraise, but perhaps it can be more comfortable or less pressure-filled in some way.

    As another idea, maybe Oyster would like to organize some sort of round table. I would love to come and sit with anyone who is interested. I would love to bring with me other representatives of the “Jewocracy” from various groups, and let’s figure out how to at least make things a little better going forward.

  26. Oyster said

    Wow, that’s a very positive & constructive offer, JB! I think many of us would take you up on that.

  27. I’m all ears for a round table.

  28. jfriendly said

    lchaimlover: looking forward to your post.

    JB: thanks for the offer

    All, let’s take JB up on his offer and make the “Jewocracy” better.

  29. IGiveFreely said

    Wow. I am sorry if I offended anyone. That was not my aim, and apparently I got this group wrong. I am relatively new to the area, but would also welcome some sort of round table.

    Again, I apologize to everyone for those of my earlier comments that offended.

  30. minsky said

    I think it is feasible to construct communities on the basis of interests, practices, age, and similar identifiers. The question then is, with what in mind, and with what results? If the trick to staying jewish is joining a group meeting your particular needs (vegetarian, republican, meeting a mate) you have to map these needs. This runs the risk of creating an identity on the basis of differences, not similarities, fragmenting the already varied and fractured landscape of American Jewry.

    I personally disagree with any community created bottom up. We need to reinforce who we are, reigning in our tendency to diverge to the point of self-annihilation, escaping conflicts of Jews vs Jews not based on Jewish communal interest.

    One particular community I am uncomfortable with, is the ethnic community. This is viable as a hiatus, as a trough in a sinus wave of general Jewish history, but not as something that perpetuates itself. When being Jewish becomes being Jewish without some Torah, what is being Jewish about? There is a variety of reasons I dislike this option.

    I think, that instead of seeking to have every individualised Jew’s needs met, by satiating his or her lifestyle preferences, we need to reinforce the need to attend synagogues, and reinvigorate Jewish identity through Torah.

    I think we need religious talent, and a religious reneissance. Someone once remarked (please remind me who), that the poor Shtetls of Europe produced luminary after luminary, while America has produced Mogul after Liberal, with no Torah inbetween.

  31. […] some years of being spoon fed our Judaism, we don’t know how to connect when the time comes, and then we moan about our alienation and isolation. […]

  32. Friar Yid said

    I think we need religious talent, and a religious reneissance. Someone once remarked (please remind me who), that the poor Shtetls of Europe produced luminary after luminary, while America has produced Mogul after Liberal, with no Torah inbetween.

    In some ways I think that was a function of the times and environment, as well. Living in Czarist Russ-Poland didn’t give people that many options, either for entertainment or inspiration, and people that were given the opportunity to fill those roles were probably eager to do so, as opposed to today, where that same spark and attraction may not be there.

    It’s also important to recognize that a lot of the secular-esque Ashkenazi philosophers and writers (especially writers) had been raised Orthodox and classified as promising Torah scholars- Sholom Aleichem, Bialik, etc. So there was also some innate qualities, nurtured by their environments, that gave these people their talents and abilities. For me it’s equally interesting to ponder what Sholom Aleichem might have brought to the Torah world as it is to wonder the reverse: how might a man such as Elazar Shach have impacted the larger world if he had not been committed to the Haredi lifestyle?

    I think part of the reason for the modern disparity is the wide array of options and opportunities people have today, and have had since coming to America. Part of it is a diminished sense of Jewish identity. Part of it might be being turned-off from Judaism as a religion, or issues with its authority figures. And part of it, and I think this is significant, could be lacking a sense of stewardship for the Jewish community, reinforced both below, where people are raised perhaps not thinking that someone “like them” has anything to offer the larger collective, and from above, where the main way in which laypeople “help” the Torah world is through study and donations. On an intellectual level, I can see how this wouldn’t be very satisfying, and probably feeds the idea that the Jewish community is more about catering to individuals than those same individuals feeling that they actually have things to offer besides a check.

    To a certain degree it’s a chicken and egg thing: if (ideally) the primary qualification for being a (religious) Jewish leader or influential person is scholarship and Torah learnin’, its fairly difficult to include more laypeople into that circle if the laypeople haven’t done their homework. Religious renaissance is an interesting idea (though my first reaction, not surprisingly, is to think of Pat Robertson and cringe); at this point I think it would require a new generation of inspiring leaders, in all the denominations, and a real push and interest from laypeople. The problem is that I think there are a lot of Jews that are so alienated and disinterested that no matter who the rabbi is, you still won’t be able to get them into shul. Not sure how to get around that one.

    Incidentally, my limited observations of black hat Jewry indicate that they don’t seem to think too much of their modern “luminaries” themselves, certainly not compared to earlier rabbis, even as recently back as thirty or forty years. (Then again, slightly nostalgic views of the good old days aren’t uncommon, in any culture.)

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