The blog On Jewish Matters asks an important question: What attracts young Jewish people to Israel and why it is important? The discussion also appeared on the LinkedIn interest group Jewish and Israel Topics. Be nice to see more discussion in this group, but that will come in time.
Making aliyah—relocating to Israel—can be seen as the ultimate step in ensuring Jewish continuity. It is the right step for some young people and even some older families, but it raises some questions too. For instance, do we want to encourage our most energetic Israel supporters to leave the U.S. permanently and relocate in Israel? We need those people, especially the young people, advocating for Israel here in high school, college, in the workplace, in our synagogues, and throughout American society.
But you don’t have to make aliyah to share in the Israel experience. A trip to Israel can do much to cultivate strong feelings for Israel. Once you get past the loud and brash exterior many Israelis at first present, Israelis are a warm and loving people and Israel is as welcoming a place as a country can be, especially given the adverse geo-political environment it finds itself in.
There are many ways for young people to visit Israel. Birthright Israel is a primary one. When I was in college decades ago I worked on a kibbutz in Israel and have returned several times since, taking my family with me. If you are Jewish, it doesn’t take long on any trip to Israel to feel that you have come home and are among family.
Living as a Jew in the U.S. is not simple. We certainly don’t encounter pogroms and outright violence although anti-Zionism has become the latest cover for what amounts to raw anti-Semitism. Trying to maintain even a modest level of Jewish observance, however, puts you outside the cultural mainstream. If your child attends public school, Friday night and Saturday raise constant conflicts that must be navigated, especially if he or she plays sports.
This story, Shabbat Ghosts, tells a mystical tale of what happened to one family when Halloween coincided with Shabbat and upset the routines of the family and the children. I wrote this story when my children faced the Halloween-Shabbat conflict but it could just as easily been about Christmas, Easter, or July 4.
On Jewish Matters answers the question of the attraction of Israel to young Jews by suggesting that it resolves the constant compromises you have to make living as a Jew in America. To begin, it will be easier to find a Jewish mate in Israel. And that’s always a good start in the right direction.
Please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories like Shabbat Ghosts from JewishFamilyStories.com. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families. (All the stories are available for free online at http://www.jewishfamilystories.com/.)
You also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.