Championing her Generation: Anya Kamenetz


You might say millennials owe Anya Kamenetz a debt of gratitude for her most famous book. But please don’t. They already have enough debt.

“Generation Debt: Why Now is a Terrible Time to be Young” (Riverhead) was published in 2006, when its author, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale, was 24. At the time the book was a clarion call about the impact of student loans, credit card bills and an unstable job market on America’s future leaders. Kamenetz has since become a leading commentator on economic issues confronting her generation.

But when she’s not writing for the Village Voice or appearing on CNN or NPR, the Baltimore native has a passion for Jewish learning. “The focus is less on finances and more on the evolution of education,” she says of her more recent writing, which includes print and e-books.

She’s an alum of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, which took her to Israel in 1997. “It was a great experience and I made at least one lifelong friend,” she says. “The network has been a valuable virtual Jewish community over the years and I’ve given back to it where I can; for example I wrote a short reading for a Bronfman-sponsored Haggadah this year highlighting the issue of education in prison.”

She teaches about current events to the current crop of students in the Bronfman Fellowships, contributes Torah commentaries, and can be found davening at egalitarian minyans such as Kol haKfar in the West Village and Romemu on the Upper West Side.

In addition to saving money, Kamenetz counsels young people. “I believe in cultivating individuals’ ability to pursue self-directed learning with peers as well as mentors, a concept that owes something to the idea of the chevruta,” or the yeshiva concept of study partner, she says.

Her next book, “The Test,” about the need to reinvent assessment in order to have better public schools, will be published early next year.

On the bayou: Anya grew up in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.Literary family: Her father, Rodger Kamenetz, is best known for his work “The Jew and the Lotus,” and her mother is the Southern novelist Moira Crone.