With the publication of our fourth annual “36 Under 36” special section (May 13), we have now identified and profiled 12 dozen young men and women who are contributing to, sustaining and reinventing Jewish life in our community.
We are proud to highlight their achievements, and we find their biographies inspiring. Judging from the response we have received, we are not alone.What is particularly noteworthy here is that these young people and their involvement in various aspects of Jewish life — from art to business to charity — remind us that the gloomy reports about a younger generation less affiliated with Jewish causes and organizations tell only part of the story.
There are two distinct narratives about the American Jewish community today. One deals with the statistical reality that we are an aging population, having fewer children and becoming increasingly distant from the synagogues and institutions that once flourished. But it is also true that there are more opportunities for Jewish education — through books, college courses, day schools and adult learning — than ever, and that large numbers of young people are deepening their Jewish identity. Many choose to express that identity through projects involving social justice, new media and hands-on activity rather than following their parents’ path.
We chose the number 36, in part, because it echoes the concept of the Lamed Vavniks, the 36 righteous people on whose merit, according to tradition, the world survives.
We encourage our readers to take a close look at the 36 representative young people we highlighted and take comfort in knowing there are many more like them, making their mark and changing the world.
And we’re already compiling lists for next year.