Shabat lunch guests were really pleasant and interesting....a couple who lives nearby, and 2 young women who are doing the Livnot program. One of the subjects that we touched on was the way that young Jews see Judaism, and Jews, in America. The girls spoke about what I've heard so often....young Jews see Judaism as boring, and see Jews as JAPS (Jewish American Princes and Princesses) who flaunt their wealth.
Aside from a few pangs that I don't have so much wealth to flaunt, it saddened me, because it's not the first time that I've heard that thought expressed. It was brought home even more sharply later in the afternoon, when I hosted 20 teens who are visiting Israel on a teen program through their camp. This is the fourth year that I've hosted them for a short afternoon "get-to-know-a-local-resident", and I always ask them to say a a few words about their Israel experience.
The first year, I hosted 4 kids, and 2 of them said that their parents had chosen to live in an area with few Jews because they didn't want to deal with the Bar/Bat Mitzva year -- they didn't want to have to shell out thousands of dollars for the expected Bar/Bat Mitzva party, so they chose to move their families to places where there just aren't many Jews!
This group of teens, obviously bright and open, went around the circle, each one saying what a great time they were having in Israel, and how much they enjoyed being around other Jews. Which was expected. What they also said, not unexpected, but still depressing, was how many of them had few Jewish friends at home and no real Jewish community. Only now, in Israel, they were beginning to feel the pride and affinity of being Jewish. A couple of them mentioned that, when they attend Shabbat services at home, it's a boring service -- certainly not anything that would encourage a young 16-year-old to look forward to Shabbat.
So, are any of us suprised that when Jewish kids go to college, few look for Hillel or Chabad House, few search out anything (or anyone) Jewish, and many end up with non-Jewish partners?
Lots of work to do.