New issue of Sh’ma – DIY Judaism

Marshall Sklare’s classic work Conservative Judaism (1955) declared Orthodoxy dead because orthodoxy means Yiddish derahsas not English sermons, it means old world customs, it meant rabbis without a secular education, it meant no college and no professions. What about the rising modern orthodoxy of the 1950’s? They were few in number and most importantly when Jews who moved to suburbia in 1950 viewed their live options and their memories, it was the Orthodoxy of their childhoods. They forever visualized Orthodoxy in those terms, which justified their choices even into the 1980’s when their original vision of Orthodoxy was no longer reality.

We have a similar retention of an original childhood vision by modern orthodox who still refer to the Conservative congregations of their youth that were unlearned Orthodox synagogues without a mechitza, with a traditional rabbi paternally leading a semi-observant congregation. In those days, Conservative Jewish centers taught peoplehood and ethnicity.

The MO never ask: what is done today? What people do today is indie and DIY. When gen-y opts out of Orthodoxy for intellectual and cultural reasons -they are attracted to indie.

Well, the current issue of Sh’ma is an essential read to catch up on current affairs, especially for this snowy day. It describes the new world of Do It Yourself and indie Judaism. They want everything to be a co-op or a collective activity. They do not seek wisdom of the boomers or an organizational hierarchy, they are DIY.

[I cannot seem to create a direct link. It seems that you now have to sign up – It is still free but they get your email. Let me know if one can get in directly. Here are the links:
www.shma.com/shma-subscriptions
www.shmadigital.com/shma/201002/?u1=texterity

Steven M Cohen wrote a great article in the issue (It is on page 3) on “The New Jewish Organizing” outlining five points (1) indie and spiritual minyanim (2) culture- music, magazines, film, poetry (3)learning in LIMMUD format (4)social justice (5) new media- social networking. Cohen points out that the gen y calls themselves activists, not leaders. High quality davening is valued over building an institution. They don’t want to change the system like Boomers, rather they want to create opportunities for like minded people with similar sensibilities to gather. They don’t like the preoccupation with divisions and boundaries of the older generation. Cohen writes that they blur the boundaries of” education and entertainment., prayer and social justice, learning and spirituality.” They remain single into their 30’s and exist in a separate social realm than those settled. Religious experience is more important than numbers attending.

To develop Yosef’s comment, the younger gen y’s are moving out but not pulled by the Conservative movement circa 1975, which still lingers mainly in the imagination of the modern orthodox. It seems Yosef is affirming my original definition that the gen-y’s are in a new place. Yet all the gen-x and boomers can do is use the phrase post-orthodox and think of the issues of the 1980’since they have not visited the new minyanim. Some Boomers do not get that for the DIY movement, MO synagogues seem intellectually and cultural stagnant like a 1970’s Jewish Center. The gen y’s are pulled by the new indie vision. Yosef seems to be correct, the older generation may call them post-orthodox, but they are indie and DIY. The current issue of Shema is probably the best list itemizing what might be considered as post-orthodox to a Boomer and treated as natural to a gen y.

But just as I remember Conservative leaders were still telling people in the 1980’s that one cannot be Orthodox and go to college or be a professional. Even though no one who was mastering the halakhic world of Rav Soloveitchik students ever thought about Yiddish and the Lower East Side. I suspect that the older Orthodox will still think for years to come that the younger set is leaving to return to the liberalism circa 1978.

Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill • All Rights Reserved

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