The most emailed story (as of 10 am PST) on the Chronicle’s website, usual home of trolls and neocons, relates the story of one local rabbi’s quest to empower Gen-X Jews to do Jewish things. Her approach is simple, invigorating, and yet powerful in its ability to connect with this generation’s way of life. Her brainchild is a group, “Nita,” that provides events and kits to Jews looking to Jewish things outside the walls of formal institutions.
The idea is that the formal institutions do not meet their needs, but that that does not mean Judaism cannot. It’s not judgmental, it doesn’t appear to have an agenda, and it is exactly the kind of thing I think young Jews need in this world. I recognize that I am the minority when I say synagogues work for me. (And even then, I should condition that with, at this moment, in this community.) But this group offers High Holiday services, a kit with some ritual Jewish items that aren’t like your Bubbe’s and a level of acceptance of Jews, and their Judaisms, just as they are. I don’t think any other rabbi could have pulled this off. The way her parents raised her, her husband’s career, her own career… all worked together to produce a unique understanding, and even a calling.
Browsing her site lead me to the Sabbath manifesto (included in the kit for 118 dollars—I know Timbuk2 is expensive, but Sweet Moses. I am broke). A group of Jewish artists seeking to disconnect/unplug from today’s technology-addicted, rat-race oriented world articulated 10 principles any Jew would recognize as Shabbat-oriented. The nice thing, though is that the (deceptively) simple wording leaves them open to diverse interpretation, and thus implementation (how Jewish!). They appeal to secular and religious folk, Jews and non-Jews, those who want to do one thing and those who want to do all ten.
I live at home right now and can’t entirely do my own thing (i.e., if I asked my parents to leave the tv alone for 25 hours they would laugh in my face), but they do provide good outlines for what I envision my eventual Sabbath observance to look like:
connect with loved ones
nurture your health
Details to be worked out in the future, of course (i.e., how do I connect with loved ones if I’m miles from them? Tin can and string? Does that still count as technology?).
Connecting the two, I tried to think of what could be made into a simple (read: cheap) Shabbat kit for young adults. I’ve got too much on my plate this year (hello job search and conversion), but it would be interesting to explore grant funding in the future for 100 outreach kits consisting of tea lights, grape juice, pre-measured dry ingredients for a mini challah loaf, cell phone and laptop “sleeping bags”, and a local guide with a list of card games, board games, parks, and drop-in volunteer opportunities. Seems simple (read: cheap) enough on a bulk scale.