40 Plus and Screwed: More on Less You...

40 Plus and Screwed: More on Less Young Adult Engagement

Posted in the Judaism Forum

John Ford

Florence, AL

#1 Jun 24, 2013
40 Plus and Screwed: More on Less Young Adult Engagement - See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/40-plus-and-sc...

Building a sustainable community can’t be just about paying for buses full of young people in hopes they will make Jewish babies.

by Michal Kohane

You might ascribe the following comments to my advanced age, shifting moods, raging hormones. I admit. I am not a “young adult” by any current official definition of the term. At the same time, 4 of my 6 children are still in that age bracket, so I do have a vested interest in their Jewish connectedness, and anything we do in that realm of “young adult engagement”.

I started writing this piece a while back but doubting its political correctness,(yes, and my moods), left it. Then last week, I sat at yet another meeting and someone, proudly sharing all the young adult activities their organization features in a big, respectful Jewish community, said to me,“And after 40? What can I tell you. After 40 you’re screwed”.

And I have had it.

I’ve had it with the constant song and dance around “young adult engagement” as the only promise of any Jewish life anywhere ever at all. I know, I know. How dare I. Look at Birthright. Look at Masa. Look at the service opportunities programs. Look at so many groups swarming the Land every summer. Look at the grants, requests, waiting lists! Don’t you know what research shows? Didn’t you read the studies? Here, let me show you the numbers.

Yes, I have seen it. In fact, some of these programs have been directly or indirectly run from my office. I’ve sat in countless meetings trying to figure out new, innovative strategies and solutions to just these challenges I am deeply aware of and genuinely care about. And yet, I‘ve had it.

I’ve had it with smug young people who bring little to the table short of age, whose presence leaves no room for anyone else, and the fact that they are 20 some, or 30 some does not make it cute. And surprise! Contrary to some belief, clueless dinosaurs did not roam the earth a few decades ago. There was always promise in young age. That is nothing new. But there was always more. It seems that now we have lost the “more”.

We. Yes,“we”, the “older generation”, we who placate to those younger than us and still willing to glance at us, say hi to us, never mind respond to our nagging – begging repeated requests and reluctantly agree to sit on one of our prestigious boards. We, who like young parents, bend over the carriage, cooing and making stupid faces, and when we chance a smile, just melt. We, who wait like an obedient puppy with a leash in our mouth, unable to contain the wagging tail. Oh, how wonderful it is that someone half or quarter of our age might take us out for a walk so finally we can see a glimpse of “the real world”! We, who wrote ourselves out of relevancy.

Time magazine just recently called the milennials “narcissistic, overconfident, entitled and lazy”, and you know what? I can live with it that young people are a little self-centered, a little self-focused. Also contrary to some belief (and anyone’s memory), we were like this too! It’s impossible not to. It’s what makes one travel from childhood to adulthood, from a narrow “me” to a greater “us”. What is not ok is that we let them stay there; that we allow this to become our ideal, our new god we bow down to.

Now, don’t get me wrong: being 26 or 36 is great fun. Then again, so is being six. Or 66, provided you have good health, good care and – let us not ignore – a good attitude. The rest is up for grabs. I know a 99 year old man with a witty sparkle in his eyes and a sharp mind that many 19 year olds would – and should – envy. I know 20 some and 30 some who seem more misplaced, tired and lifeless than my dead ancestors.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/40-plus-and-sc...

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