Jewish Generation Z: Who/What/Where/Why 3 leaders of every stream spend time, capital, and excessive amounts of energy trying to solve the so-called question of how to keep the next gen- eration engaged. It’s inherent in Judaism to be preoccupied with the devel- opment of future generations. Indeed, this concern with passing on the values of Judaism and enculturating children to carry them on is canon- ized into Jewish texts, rituals, and commandments. The Passover seder, the most observed Jewish holiday rite in any given year, is centered around the perennial charge: you shall teach your children. Each generation of the Jewish people is called to answer that charge in a way that is reflective of its moment in history. For the educators, parents, and others concerned about Generation Z, there is therefore the question: What are we teaching, and what will success look like? Rabbi Abbi, the mother of a Generation Zer and a member of Generation Alpha,1 described success in terms of instilling a strong Jewish identity in her children this way: “I want my kids to feel proud of being Jewish and to be able to engage in a Judaism that is relevant and meaningful. I want them to be able to walk down the street and to say, ‘I’m Jewish,’ and to know what that means.” She wants her children to connect with their Judaism in positive ways and to have some level of Jewish observance—“whatever that means”—as well as to raise Jewish families—“however that happens.” Nicki, a mother of three whom we will get to know in more detail later, sees success as “Judaism being an obligation but not a burden in my kids’ lives. I see college students today who will say they’re only Jewish inside their homes and in these little bubbles. But they don’t want to put up signs advertising Hillel events or show their Judaism outside of those limited spaces. I want my kids to be comfortable being Jewish wherever they are.” Mara, a college student at SUNY Binghamton, reflected on the impact that her years of multifaceted Jewish education, including day school, camp, synagogue life, and youth group participation, as well as lively con- versations around her own dining room table, had on her worldview. “My optimism has been informed by my Jewish values, the things that I was taught, and the idea that we’re on an upward trajectory toward making the world a more whole place. There’s this idea of there being a spark in every person in the world, and I get chills just thinking about it.” A drive to change the world with a Jewish lens as the inspiration is compelling as a measurement of success in Jewish education. For Mara and many of her peers, to “do Jewish” is not limited to actions or environments that would necessarily be defined as traditionally Jewish, nor by elements that are
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