Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Engaging the Millennial Disengagement

Despite warnings to myself from within and a few from without, I think I'll ignore the advice of self-proclaimed Jewish millennial voices (there's a sardonic hint in there) to us outsiders, age-wise and community-standing-wise, to "try shutting up and sitting down" but rather actually discuss and address points put forward by David A.M. Wilensky and Gabriel T. Erbs who composed "A Taxonomy of Stupid Shit the Jewish Establishment Says to Millenials", published in the Spring 2017 issue of Jewish Currents (and I'm old enough to remember that that organ, now referred to as a "progressive Jewish media", was basically rooted in communism, only sliding into some sort of socialism just before the 1960s).

Now, to be clear.  I actually have hopes, or at least intentions, to convince some of these classified-as-millennial Jewish younger generation types to reconsider their positions: the political ones, the cultural ones, the social ones, the religious ones and even the psychological ones within which they prefer, currently (no pun intended), to encapsulate themselves. That, of course, requires mean to assume that they still do possess the capability to intelligently look-from-without at what they are doing and thinking.  Self-introspection is a classic Jewish life-fundamental and here is Moshe Chaim Luzatto's phrasing: "...man's coming to see clearly and to recognize as a truth the nature of his duty in the world and the 
end towards which he should direct his vision and his aspiration in all of his labors all the days of his life".

I know this task can be, well, daunting.  I read there that

Synagogues are inherently spiritual enterprises. They are religious communities. But they are often so spiritually empty that if they can manage to entice any millennials inside, we can see that there’s nothing real there for us. 

I wondered what the opposite of "empty" and "real" is for such people and discovered that, besides davening the Amidah in the dark (did the Shabbat clock kick in?),

at the oneg, there was an honest-to-God keg of beer

and, like I'm thinking to myself, they don't drink schnapps anymore?

Fortified, I proceed to make comments on their writing.

*     *     *

We really don’t understand how any thinking person believes an intra-communal breeding program will be a convincing appeal to young people. Jewish millennials chafe against this pearl-clutching because we embrace, overwhelmingly, progressive values about gender, sexuality, and marriage. To us, baby-boomer chatter on intermarriage sounds alarmingly like what a lot of “polite society” said at the advent of racial intermarriage.

"Racial"?  That is a bit extreme. Being Jewish is not being a race.

Instead, most attempts to empower Jewish millennials keep us on a very tight leash...They not only fail to place Jewish millennials in key decision-making roles (read: appropriations), they represent a tremendous hubris on the part of institutional program leaders...Instead, young Jews are relegated to young-professional outreach groups or feckless “student cabinets” (in the case of Hillel International).

Would you guys give project money to people right-of-center?

Israel, like most countries, is not really cool...even without the settlements, the occupation, and the Nakba, Israel is not hip. Young people don’t really think entire countries are cool...No number of slimy, oversexed advertising campaigns will change that. Yet millions of dollars are spent every year pitching a sexy, Disneyland [v]ersion of Zionism and Israel to Jewish millennials

America is?  England?  Syria?

Would undersexed be okay?

The Conference of Presidents and Michael Oren, not exactly known for being relatable to millennials, know that they need us. But people like that just can’t bring themselves to believe us when we tell them how we see the world. The vast majority of us believe that there is such a thing as the Occupation, that Palestinians are people too, and all manner of heresies.
So, if there really is no illegal occupation or if the so-called Palestinians are really Southern Syrians, we still have to permit you your fantasies - which, by the way, harm Israel's security and the lives of its citizens?

And now, the get, er, serious:

WHAT CAN YOU take away from all of this?
Be an ally...Put us in the driver’s seat. Put us on the board. And when you think of something disparaging to say about millennials, try shutting up and sitting down instead. When you hear one of your peers saying some stupid shit about us, shut them down and sell them a copy of this issue of Jewish Currents. 

Sorry David (an editor of jweekly.com and a former editor of New Voices magazine (once known as the Jewish Student Press Service) and Gabriel Erbs (a labor union organizer in Portland, Oregon, and a former board member of J Street U, the student arm of J Street), with that crap above, the last thing we need, ‏‏עס פֿעלט מיר ווי אַ לאָך אין קאָפּ (Es felt mir vi a lokh in kop = I need it like a hole in the head), is to allow your kind of thinking and behavior to control anything to do with Judaism and Zionism. You'd end up as the Last Genertion.

Let me be stark: no matter how you feel, the political truth at the moment is that anti-Semitism masquerades as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism and playing around with non-Zionism or with a 'why Israel?' stance is asking for trouble for a lot of people and fueling a movement you cannot control.


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