More than ‘Generation Me’

Published: 
May 2, 2014

Source: Sh'ma

 

How can it be that the most narcissistic, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, materialistic generation that the world has ever known is also capable of causing social revolutions in any number of countries and mobilizing the masses in countless political campaigns — perhaps even saving the planet from environmental disaster?

 

This ambiguity plagues any organization that has young people on its radar. And, at a time when institutions are clamoring for relevance if not survival, this complexity should be front and center for discussion in the Jewish community….

 

I am not suggesting that any one of these four major characteristics of young people today is particularly radical. But when you combine them — and many other traits of these generations — one begins to see that the very fabric of what we understand as Jewish community is being challenged: Our current leadership structures, foundational basis in Jewish texts and values, raison d’être, and inability to relate to complex personal identity are all indicators of a community rapidly losing touch with its younger population.

 

Many of these characteristics have a connection to technology, but they are not about technology per se. But it would be a mistake not to understand that today’s technology is changing the way people think, behave, and interact with one another at a magnitude the like of which we have never seen before.

 

These radical changes demand that we all adapt and innovate. Perhaps that prophecy may be more palatable when combined with suggested remedies:

  • Include young people at your board meetings and on your task forces. They should be invited not as informants, consultants, or focus groups, but rather as authentic voices with the same decision-making authority as anyone else around the table.
  • For young people who want to know that their contributions in life will make a meaningful difference, it is essential to ensure that your financial models are transparent and based on value propositions that resonate on both an
    individual and collective level.
  • The value of being Jewish today must be expressed in a way that conflates a better sense of self, a stronger sense of community, and a better world in which all humanity can flourish….

Engrained in every Jewish educator must be the deeply held belief that education is about transforming lives in order to make the world a better place. By unleashing that individual personal spark in each of our learners, we will come closer to fully recognizing the potential of these generations. To underestimate their power is to suppress their creativity. To challenge and inspire them is our key to ensuring a vibrant Jewish world for the next generations to inherit.

 

Read the entire article at Sh'ma

Updated: May. 26, 2014
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