Get Ready for Jewish iSpirituality

The Spotify Generation Is Redefining Religion

Vintage Vinyl: Old time religion is going the way of the old record store.
Getty Images
Vintage Vinyl: Old time religion is going the way of the old record store.

By Jay Michaelson

Published February 06, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Remember how you used to buy music in the old days? You would go to a store and purchase a plastic disk that an expert had recorded, sequenced and curated for you. Its style, and thus, secondarily, yours, was carefully thought out by an array of musicians, producers, art directors and marketing men (generally, men).

Not only that, but you probably had heard about it via another bevy of experts: radio programmers, promoters and disc jockeys. This is what it was to buy music as recently as 20 years ago: a purchase of a single, coherent style organized by experts, arranged for your consumption.

If you’re under 30, this narrative isn’t even nostalgic; it’s Jurassic. Today, it’s understood that participants (not consumers) buy, stream, download or trade bits of music; that they arrange them how they like, and that what makes a good playlist on Spotify or iTunes is not uniformity of style, but diversity. The expectation of younger people today is that they will co-create their experience.

We live in the age of iSpirituality, no less than in the age of the iPod. As with music, everything is now available all the time. Participants (formerly parishioners, consumers or target markets) expect, not as a matter of au courant hipdom but simply as a matter of course, that they will have a role in constructing their identities and experiences.

Top-down duration, uniformity of program offerings and mono-identity are as outdated as those old 33s. Whether or not that’s a good thing remains to be seen. But even if it’s not desirable, it is inevitable.

In a sense, American Jews have been living this way for quite some time; iSpirituality is less revolution than evolution. Three hundred years ago, one’s Jewish identity was, for all intents and purposes, mandatory: compelled from outside, patrolled from within.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.