Why Be Jewish? Because Why the Hell Not.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 2 February 2010 08:20 Written by bryfy Tuesday, 2 February 2010 08:20

Teenagers today have been labeled many things – Generation Y, the Millennials, the iPod generation and Generation Me – to name but a few. Most of these labels infer something narcissistic about today’s youth – it’s all about them (unless of course they want to harass, or shoot someone else)

But here’s where we may have just got it wrong.  The Generation Me label fails to take into account the massive number of youth today involved in so many different causes, campaigns, social action projects, and repairing the world.

How do we make sense of this paradox?

Despite their desire to be individuals, teenagers, as they always have and always will, have the need to belong to something bigger than themselves, feel connected to others who are similar to them, and leave their imprint on the world in which they live.

We must understand that Jewish teens can simultaneously be individuals and actively belong to the Jewish People and Community (see last week’s post).

But the question that we must ask ourselves is if this paradox is reconcilable for most Jewish teenagers –  then why are so many turning their backs on Jewish life – especially after their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs?

Maybe they’re too busy and maybe their parents don’t care enough. But it is my belief that the number one reason why Jewish teens are not choosing to partake in Jewish life, in the numbers that we would like them to, is because we, as a community are not providing them with enough quality, relevant and meaningful opportunities to be involved in.

*If you are a youth organization who takes offence to this post – please comment below, please prove me wrong, and please contact me so that we can see how we might be able to work together to scale, spread and sustain your excellence. 

For all of wondering why you should choose to be Jewish – in the words of one now famous Jewish teenager (who decided to put his Jewish identity up on YouTube for the whole world to see): Why be Jewish? Because Why the Hell Not

YouTube Preview Image

If you know this guy – or if this guy is you – please contact me – I would like to give you due recognition after several years of embedding you within many a powerpoint presentation.


  1. Daniel Cohen   |  Tuesday, 02 February 2010 at 12:44 pm


    I became a youth director about a year and a half ago. So far I work with two youth groups. USY and J-teen. In both situations I find that the best way to attract kids is to play to their interests. This totally plays into the “me” theme. By letting the kids decide on programs, it gives them the power to make the youth group all about them.
    The best part is that they tend to engage in the same activities that they would anywhere else. The difference is that now they are doing it in a social Jewish setting.
    In both youth groups I am involved with, we have seen steady climbs in membership and activity.
    I would love to discuss these issues with you. Please feel free to email me.

  2. Clickbank eBooks   |  Tuesday, 02 February 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I can not agree with you in 100% regarding some thoughts, but you got good point of view.

  3. Kazza   |  Tuesday, 02 February 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I thoroughly agree with this very interesting point of view… well said!

  4. ilanit bero   |  Wednesday, 03 February 2010 at 1:18 am

    At a recent workshop I attended for teen educators, the presenter asked the participants to list values that are important to teens.
    My [quite cynical] group peers laughed when I suggested ACTIVISM as one of the values that is important to teens. They brushed me off as I insisted that teens, contrary to how we categorize and label them, DO care about social change, environment, economic justice, etc and that they do care about how they fit into this world.
    As my argument fell onto deaf ears, I wondered if hmmmmmm… Am I naïve? Overly optimistic? Or simply just stupid? (ouch)
    David-I’m so glad to read in your article that contrary to how teens are perceived, they do have a need to explore their own identity within their surroundings and had WE not failed THEM with shoddy programming À la “Pizza with the Rabbi” for so long, perhaps our discussions about engagement (or rather, lack of) would be different…
    And, if your argument that parent’s involvement and scheduling aren’t significant factors, can we assume then that the “tipping point” is closer than we think? Could we simply just need a Paul Revere -like Jewish Educator to bring about the momentum and success experienced by Hush Puppies Shoes executives right before they threw in the towel?

  5. Joel Katz   |  Wednesday, 03 February 2010 at 3:53 am

    Just yesterday, Bob Goldfarb wrote an article in ejewishphilanthropy.com titled “Perceptions and Priorities, Past and Future” which I think is very relevant to your post.

    He writes:

    “…the daily realities of American Jewish life can be read in two ways. Take one trend that looms large, the decline in affiliation among the young. Some may see it as temporary, a short-lived phenomenon that can be countered by changing our institutions and creating new ways for Jews (and sometimes non-Jews) to get involved.

    Others see it as a permanent change, a generational shift where little value is found in affiliation per se and where encounters with Jewish life take place on discrete, self-selected occasions. These understandings have radically different implications for policy.”

    Joel Katz
    Religion and State in Israel

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