A Judaism for the Next Generation

Friends, this Shabbat our Young Adult and Special Affinities Director, Abbey Cohn, shares her unique perspective as a young adult on the Jewish Federation of North America's General Assembly, which several of us attended earlier in the week. I hope you learn as much from Abbey's reflection as I did. Shabbat Shalom. - Howard

Earlier this week, I attended my first General Assembly with the Jewish Federations of North America. It was thrilling to be among thousands of Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders learning how to strengthen our worldwide Jewish community.

As Greater Hartford's Young Adult and Special Affinities Director, I attended a number of sessions on engaging millennials. Most of us are familiar with the common picture of millennials: that we're always on our phones and we have limited time, money and attention spans. One workshop reminded us that while it's easy to stereotype millennials, in fact each one of us is a unique human being. We're united by our desire to be heard, to feel connected, and to access knowledge anytime and anywhere (thus the phones!).

Statistics add another dimension to this picture. I heard a lot of statistics at the GA - especially that there are 1.4 million Jewish millennials. Locally, we know we are having trouble keeping millennials in our neighborhood. More than 39,000 millennials left Connecticut in 2014, and Greater Hartford keeps fewer of its four-year college graduates than any other metro area in the U.S.

All this information indicates that when it comes to millennials, Jewish communal organizations are small fish in a very big pond, vying for the attention of people who are pulled in many different directions. But the real question is, how do we use this information to build our Jewish community? What's the next step in engaging Jewish millennials?

We don't have a complete answer yet, but we're getting there. Here in Greater Hartford, we're listening, creating social networks and sharing information. We know millennials like to have options, so we're offering a wide variety of ways to engage - from happy hours to Spin classes to volunteer opportunities. We're focusing on building authentic relationships with the hope that, when each individual is ready for a deeper Jewish connection, they know where to turn.

Although our Jewish journeys may differ, in the end - no matter which generation we belong to - we all share the same goal: the continuation of a thriving Jewish community. 

Shabbat Shalom.


Abbey Cohn
Director, Young Adult and Special Affinities


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