Feeling Aged Out Of Jewish Life


I completely agree with Gary Rosenblatt about the need to engage the entire range of the Jewish community to fully invest in the future of the Jewish community and Israel (“Move Over, Millennials,” Between the Lines, March 21).

As a teen, my family and community did that with me. Not only did I have a bat mitzvah, but I was part of a large confirmation class that continued our Jewish education through 10th grade, and then a few of us continued on in our Jewish studies. As part of its Hebrew school program, my congregation arranged a six-week summer trip to Israel that was open to all confirmation class members. Ever since, I have strongly identified with my Jewish community and repeatedly visited Israel. It is a bond that once forged has not broken, even as it has been strained.

The strain I experienced also shows the importance of a community’s maintaining its engagement with the full range of its members. That lesson was brought home to me quite personally as an adult. Although I am a single woman, I have maintained my connection with the Jewish community through membership in a progressive Manhattan synagogue. I was far more active and committed, however, over 10 years ago when the synagogue’s singles outreach did not discriminate based on age. Approximately 10 years ago it ceased programming for single people over 40, and was less than welcoming to those who were over 40.

Eventually, the synagogue resumed some programming that targets adults between 35-55, and also over 55. Still, although I maintain my membership, I have not been able to comfortably resume my affiliation.

The simple reality is that something important was lost to me (and not yet found), and I am sure that I am not alone in experiencing that loss both within the congregation and within the larger Jewish community when I aged out of the programming target (even as I entered the fundraising target group). There is no question but that I am less engaged now than I was, even as I remain committed to the broader Jewish community and to Israel. But my commitment is not based on current engagement. Rather it is based on what was ingrained in me as a teen.