[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 17 – Engaging Millennials with Jewish Peoplehood What Does It Take? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.]
By Maytal Kuperard
“How to engage Millennials” is like asking “How to engage Europeans.” Just because Millennials were born in a certain era doesn’t mean we are all the same. No one would think to say that there is a single way to engage all Europeans just because we are from the same continent. The truth about Millennials is that we are so varied that sometimes I think it’s hard to have a conversation on the subject. To develop a sense of how to engage with this group requires noting that we span time, age and socioeconomic situation. So while I cannot generalise about Millennials, perhaps I can provide a few insights that describe my own take on engaging with Jewish Peoplehood based on my experience.
I work for an organisation that seeks to inspire positive social change in the British Jewish community and I have been working for similar organisations for much of my career. So I function within an environment where the Tikkun Olam conversation is lived out on a daily basis. For others, Millennial or otherwise, it may be a very novel thing. From my particular perspective, what I see is that Millennial Jews in London today operate in a complex, multi-cultural and globalised environment. When we partake in public and private acts of chesed and tzedek, we want to do so proudly as Jews. It is very much integral to forming the fabric of our Jewish identity and informs our relationship to the concept of Peoplehood.
As part of an aging community (yes, young people ‘age’ too), Millennials have grown up riding the wave of globalised culture (drowning?), we are accessing information (overload?) like no generation before us and there is of course the social media revolution (devolution?). Whilst there has never been a shortage of causes to get involved in, today, potential causes are a lot easier to access and a lot harder to ignore.
Jewish Peoplehood is elemental in a globalised world for Jews like me. It’s how we anchor our identity, and define ourselves apart amidst a generation overwhelmed with worldwide integration. For us, Jewish Peoplehood is not a distraction from universal justice. We do “Peoplehood” when we commit to universal justice, voluntary service and acts of chesed whether inside or outside of our community. It’s how we locate ourselves within the minority amongst other minorities. It’s that particular feeling we are greeted with when acknowledging the part the Jewish community is playing in seeking to provide refuge for unaccompanied Syrian minors in London today.
So what does it take to engage us Millennials?
It takes a level of acceptance that our multifarious conceptions of Jewish Peoplehood belong within the facets of today’s Judaism. For some, our identity is comprised of practising Tzedek. It affirms our connection to our Jewish history and it is important that this experience is acknowledged as authentic by our community. There will be those Millennials who disagree with me and find other ways to express their Jewish identity. That is as it should be. A loud and vital Judaism for Millennials will be one broad enough to contain all its many voices. But I spend my energy creating environments to attract Millennials who, like me, already engage with the betterment of the world we live in.
Maytal Kuperard is Head of Communications and Community Outreach at JHub. JHub provides support to individuals and nonprofit organisations that promote positive Jewish identity and social change in the UK Jewish community and beyond.