This week’s Two Voices asks: How do we keep young members of the community engaged in Judaism?
Isabel Calkins says…
As a young child, it was easy to stay interested and involved in Judaism. My generation, born in the 1980s and early 1990s, was immersed in Jewish culture without effort thanks to our parents.
But, as we grew up, our communities grew smaller and we no longer had our families making the decisions for us about religion, which led to many people to become lost in their faith.
Some people don’t care about their religion. That’s OK. But for many others, as children, we were told the beliefs and ideas of our parents and the Jewish educators around us. There was limited room for interpretation and this led to the lack of engagement as we got older.
The one solution to keeping my generation involved is making Judaism easily accessible to us, whether at university or in the workforce. This could be in the form of Torah study cocktail parties, or Shabbat Services with a d’var Torah about current events.It is about creating opportunities for young adults to explore their Jewish beliefs in a way that does not feel like extra work.
At these events, we will have the opportunities to build meaningful Jewish relationships and we may not even see we are doing that. Once this happens, my generation will be able to effortlessly create our own Jewish communities that will be part of the rest of our lives.
Isabel Calkins is a member of Takum Progressivi, a Progressive Jewish social action study group
Victoria Goldsmith says…
Growing up in a loving, happy household, but without much in the way of a Jewish life, it wasn’t until my early 20s that I started craving more of a connection to my Jewish identity.
As a recent arrival to London, I didn’t have much in the way of a Jewish social circle. But in the years that followed I gradually built up a large, lovely and diverse group of friends from across the Jewish community and joined the wonderful Liberal Jewish Synagogue.
When I decided to engage with my Judaism there were, thankfully, the opportunities available for me to become involved and stay interested. Two of the most important aspects are accessibility and relevance.
For me, and for many friends, our adult, independent identities as Jews were developed, inspired and nurtured through groups such as Moishe House, LJ Routes, LEAPP and Limmud. Offering inclusive programmes facilitating social connections, community and Jewish education, these groups and shared experiences can be meaningful, successful and authentic ways to maintain interest in Judaism.
It is crucial such initiatives and opportunities are available nationally, and are appropriately promoted to be truly accessible so Judaism can stay relevant and appealing to those in their 20s and 30s.
Victoria Goldsmith is a member of LJ Routes, a social space for all young Jews, their friends and partners