20-Somethings and Religion— again

The gen-y millenials finally made it as a topic to an aging baby-boomer Jewish newspaper after being covered in the NYT the week before. The dividing lines for the 20somethings are not the baby-boomer issues but a new set of issues that are only appearing.

The new issues will be based on the sharp dividing line between those that marry young from those who will be single until their late 30’s. They will create two difference sets of life experience, different ways to frame their childhood, and different orthodoxies. If one is single until the late 30’s then the year in Israel has definitely worn off to be replaced by the rabbinical influences of their single life.  One spends a decade in the city with its dynamism of energy and new ideas. (But dont confuse urban life with academic town life.) One treats one’s community different if one is a member for 50 years or if one is only a member for 15 years to raise kids and one was mobile before and afterward.

Back in the 1960’s, there was an emphasis on outreach on the collegiate level becuase that was  seen as the formative moment, recently it has been on post- HS and on post-college. If one is floating in graduate school or urban jobs for many years then the need for outreach would need to shift to a later age. If life imitate the modeling shown them, then we are going to have a generation living the life shown in the TV show Friends.Which religious group will be able to reach them? Know that it wont be the same group that is reaching the early marriage and early settling down group. Which group will most likely be able to speak about emerging, forging, and contributing to the world?

Emerging Adults: What to Do With 20-Somethings?
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
A recent New York Times Magazine cover story examined the plight of the indecisive and paralyzed 20-somethings who are living in a newly coined life stage called “emerging adulthood.” It is a critical developmental period.

Robin Marantz Henig – NY Times Magazine
33 is the New 13
The Jewish world is organized as if only a narrow stream separates childhood and adulthood, but that stream has become a river. We need to build a bridge — an entirely new infrastructure — over the new river of emerging adulthood. Imagine if 33 became the new 13 and we invested heavily in Jewish young people all the way to actual adulthood. The bridge would be built around the fundamental understanding that the investment is largely uni-directional (as it is with children): we can’t expect emerging adults to make solid Jewish commitments during a developmental stage that is defined by non-commitment.
There is good news: most Jewish emerging adults go to college, so we know exactly where to find them to start the process after they leave home. And they are pluripotent: they are as open to Jewish experiences as they are to everything else.
Daniel Libenson is the executive director of the University of Chicago Hillel and a 2009 Avi Chai Fellow, http://www.uchicagohillel.org

Personal Discovery and Development
While the reality on the ground is complex, in the end the broad message is simple: It’s about authentic, personal experiences; being with friends and experiencing (or creating) community together; and opportunities that deepen Jewish knowledge and stimulate Jewish growth.
But in its simplicity is a profound message: Identity formation is ultimately a result of personal discovery and development that, outside the family, happens in a circle of friends.
Morlie Levin, CEO Birthright Israel NEXT, next.birthrightisrael.com


Great Conversation
To be 20-something is to search for one’s place in the world. Between career and education, friendship and romances, young people do not so much drift as struggle with profound questions of meaning: Who am I? What can I contribute to the world? What is a good life to live? The Jewish community can offer emerging adults not a set of answers, but a forum in which to forge a sense of meaning.
Our message to young Jews should be: Your concerns are the right ones. We have been wrestling with these questions for quite some time. Come and listen to some of our responses, and then join the conversation.
Dan Smokler, Senior Jewish Educator, NYU Hillel, http://www.hillel.org

read the whole article here

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4 responses to “20-Somethings and Religion— again

  1. Young men are maturing later than their parents, with a longer quasi adolescence going sometimes into their thirties; not so young women who generally are interested in settling in with a spouse (to be) by their mid twenties. I don’t know exactly why, it might be related to young men being more affected by the greater difficulty today in earning a decent living. The greater disparity yields the non-charedi version of the shiduch crisis. I have an inventory of top quality young women priced to move, all across the country, with nary a bochur in sight. Young women are unable to fulfill their life plans because they can’t find a great guy. A guy because he can’t find a great job.

    There is a conflation in the article of identity and selfhood. Identity is more superficial and determines where one is the Jewish spectrum, the degree of assimilation and whether we are willing to pop $2500 a year to join a synagogue. Rabbis, teachers help with identity. As we all know, for many charedi rosh yeshivas 20-40-60-80-100 is the new 20. If they had their druthers we would never graduate from bais medresh. Rabbis are great for developing a very definite identity, but not particularly helpful when it comes to growing up, where it is a matter of having a put-together self, one with definite ambitions and goals, and a harmony of these ambitions with one’s ideals and abilities.

    I am not at all sure the lengthening of adolescence involves greater difficulty today of figuring out a coherent life plan. Quite the contrary. Compared to generations of bohemians, beatniks, hippies, and the class of ’68, young people today seem quite focused. I hold they want to move on but it doesn’t let itself; “es lust sich nisht” as we say in Yiddish, because of external structural problems.

  2. ej, in the non-Orthodox community, late marriage is the rule among men and women. Non-Orthodoxy Jewish women marry later and have children later than the US average by large margins. Consider that by age 19, 56% of non-Jewish women have had one or more children, while on 30% of Jewish women have done so – just the most dramatic example of a Jewish trend towards late marriage and family-rearing.

    I also think that you are defining identity to mean affiliation, not identity as it is meant by psychologists and educators. I think Dr Brill’s point is accurate. There’s a generation of Jews in their 20s who have never been educated on how to be a Jew outside of the context of family life, but who may spend two decades outside of that context. Are there Jewish institutions and movements that can speak to that experience and provide Jewish pathways or a coherent sense of Jewish life during that span?

  3. rejwewvenator…When people now become unemployed, they’re taking a more or less permanent hit to their level of human capital. We build up human capital while we gain experience working on a job, but lose human capital when we’re displaced from a job. Economists think people today recognize they are suffering ever bigger drops in their human capital at the moment that they suffer a job displacement. Call it globalization. Time is the enemy both in careers and in marriage. Opportunities, possibilities diminish as we age. Prolonged periods of emerging adulthood are dangerous. If you want less unemployment in the work and shiduchim markets we should not create ever more generous permanent safety nets, which this article advocated. It’s not as if twenties-somethings are sitting in caves waiting for an occasional visitor. (See for example Serugim, the Israeli telenovela.) Making it even more comfy and cozy, prolongs the problem and creates worse outcomes. I see nothing wrong with the young unmarried mingling with everyone else.
    Look at the proposed solutions. One guy wants to build an entirely new infrastructure offering increasingly compelling experiences. “We must design entirely new experiences and expectations.” The next guy wants authentic personal experiences that stimulate Jewish growth. The third more modestly expects the rabbis provide a forum where the emergers can forge a sense of meaning and find out who they are. He doesn’t explain how this is to be done without work and love.
    Markets aren’t clearing properly. Aggregating all the segments into one category doesn’t help. This kind of branding might be a marketing strategy for the synagogues, but it doesn’t speak to the causes or solutions. That’s my opinion.

  4. I can’t say I follow your reasoning here. Are you analogizing between employment and marriage? As I understand the relationship, non-Orthodox Jews (and increasingly, Orthodox Jews as well) defer marriage in favor of educational and career advancement, and because finding a Jewish mate or taking the journey from looking endogamously to being open to intermarrying takes a while.

    Is it your contention that we should try to reverse the trend of late marriage? I could agree with that, and my sense is that filling the institutional, educational, and Jewishly-social vacuum of the post-college pre-marriage period would indeed lead to somewhat earlier marriage too. After all, to say that you see nothing wrong with young unmarrieds mingling with everyone else is to ignore that they choose not to, or at least to assign no validity to that choice.

    We’re dealing with a broad societal trend, not simply a local Jewish market failure. See the MacArthur Foundation’s study on 20 somethings in the USA (http://www.transad.pop.upenn.edu/about/whatweknow.html). The Jewish community needs to define a place and role in Jewish life foe this transitional period, rather than wish that it goes away.

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