Millennials want to know that no matter who they are, how they connect to their Judaism, or who they choose to love and marry, they will be accepted by the Jewish community.
[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 13 – Jewish Peoplehood: What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we nurture it? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.]
By Rachel Hodes
As I sit here, watching my younger brother’s induction ceremony into Garin Tzabar, a pre-army prep program for foreigners hoping to join the Israeli Defense Forces, I’m battling a variety of emotions – pride, anxiety, fear, awe. When Koby first made this decision, it was incomprehensible to me. As someone whose connection to Israel was never the expression of my Judaism and Jewish identity, Koby’s decision was incredibly difficult for me to accept. Why did he have to go thousands of miles away and join a foreign army? Well, for him, this was his expression of his Jewish identity, and connection to the Jewish people. And while I chose to find myself through social action and community building, he chose to find himself through a connection to Israel.
This to me is the true definition of Jewish Peoplehood. That two people, who grew up in the same house with the same parents, with the same Jewish upbringing can have two incredibly divergent Jewish identities, yet are both equal members of the Jewish People. Neither one of us is better than the other, neither one of us is more or less “Jewish“ than the other, and neither one of us looks down upon the other. For me, this is the way that the Jewish people can sustain itself.
For Jews in America, who for the most part are blessed with acceptance by their peers and access to all aspects of society, Judaism is no longer their singular identity. Millennial Jews especially are entering into new relationships with their Judaism, questioning its relevancy, meaning, and purpose in our lives, and because of that, we’re figuring out the connection we have to our fellow brethren both at home and abroad. As we go through that process, unlike many of our parents and grandparents, religion and Israel are not the focal point of that connection, and instead, Peoplehood is.
Millennials want to know that no matter who they are, how they connect to their Judaism, or who they choose to love and marry, they will be accepted by the Jewish community. Judaism as seen through a Peoplehood lens does just that. It allows spaces for differences in all respects – politically, culturally, ethnically, spiritually, and gives us a basis for connection.
When my roommates and I first started Moishe House Murray Hill (part of an international network of 63 home based, vibrant, pluralistic, Jewish communities for young adults), we made Peoplehood the core value of our home – we wanted anybody to feel comfortable walking through our doors, regardless of race, ethnicity, personal creed, sexual orientation, or choice of partner. We did this by inviting our own non-Jewish friends, denominationally diverse friends, gay friends, etc. not only because it was the community we wanted to be a part of, but because we wanted to model for the larger Jewish community the type of inclusive culture that millennial Jews crave and require: one that will continue to accept and embrace both Koby and me, as we travel on our respective, divergent Jewish journeys.
Rachel Hodes is a Planning Associate in the Commission on the Jewish People, a founding resident of Moishe House Murray Hill, and a proud Jewish millennial.
This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 13 – Jewish Peoplehood: What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we nurture it? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.