Friday, December 05, 2014

Another Kid is Alright

This is a killer letter in the Baltimore Jewish Times by Amna Farooqi, talking about Jewish organizations' attempts to connect to millenials without respecting millenials.
One of the more engaging programs at the GA was a plenary panel featuring journalists I admire: Jeffrey Goldberg, Aluf Benn, Steven Linde and Linda Scherzer. As the conversation drifted from the media’s coverage of the war this summer to support for Israel, Benn pointed out that American liberals, especially young people, still traditionally support Israel but are growing more critical of the occupation.

Scherzer responded with: “Do you think young people just don’t get it?” With its deep condescension toward me and my peers, that moment revealed a major flaw in the American Jewish community’s approach to young people. The JFNA, like the rest of the community, knows that it has a problem engaging with us. It was frequently discussed at the GA. But the nature of those conversations actually epitomized the problems they purported to solve.

The panel “Doing Jewish in College and Beyond: Effective Ways to Engage Young Jews” had not a single student or young person on the panel. In fact, several of the students who asked questions were told that their views were “parochial” and only representative of a tiny, insignificant minority.

The program “Generation #Hashtag” highlighted statistics about the rise of anti-Semitism on campuses, even as the students on the panel itself insisted that they didn’t feel unsafe or insecure as Jews.

The fact is, millennials are not staying away because their local federation’s Facebook page is not attractive enough; they are staying away because when they want to talk about their beliefs and goals, they are often condescended to or ignored. Assuming that by understanding Facebook and Twitter they can understand how millennials think, the organizers of the conference displayed how out of touch they really are with young people. I attended the GA because I feel a personal investment in Israel, Zionism and the American Jewish community. I’m a Pakistani-American Muslim, so I’ll forgive you if you find that confusing.
Needless to say, I disagree with the anti-Semitism stuff (I'm a millenial and I do feel these concerns quite acutely). But Farooqi is absolutely right that the first step in engaging with a group is taking the group seriously. A Jewish community which doesn't respect its younger generation can't be surprised if the younger generation doesn't respect it back.

1 comment:

Mordy said...

Millennial liberal Jews are kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand they're more left-wing on many issues, including Israel, than their boomer parents still in charge of major Jewish institutions. On the other hand, demographics trends and studies (not least of which last year's Pew survey) suggest that the future of Judaism is more religious and right-wing than its recent history. Which is to say - maybe their opinions are "only representative of a tiny, insignificant minority."