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.
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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.
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With modernity came emancipation, and the many shades of gray that define contemporary Jewish identities: movements; ideologies; spectrums of religious to secular, identified to not. Some Jewish communities are still fighting this battle, walling themselves off from modernity and its choices. Some Jews have found ways to cope; others have left much of their Jewishness behind.

But if modernity brought new choices, and challenges, to Jewish life, it still retained conventional notions of identity and existing structures of cultural dissemination. I remember being asked in high school, whether I considered myself an American Jew or a Jewish American. This is how the choice was offered: basically a weighing of two identities. Of course, those were not our only defining characteristics: We were Conservative Jews, not the Christianizing Reform or the crazy Orthodox. We were Democrats, not like the goyim. And there were a dozen privileged statuses that, like all privileges, were invisible as long as you had them: I was white, male, straight-acting and middle class.

Postmodernity, enabled by information technology and the shattering of conventional identity markers, is of a different order of magnitude. Boundaries between Jewish and not are eroding, thanks to multi-faith families and hyphenated religio-cultural identities. The whiteness of Jews is eroding, thanks to exogamy, adoption and the increased inclusion of Jews of color, Mizrahi Jews, Sephardic Jews and Ethiopian Jews. Denominational affiliation is decreasing, as Jews define themselves less by top-down ideological dogmas and more by pragmatism, communities of concern, class and other vectors of affiliation. Am I a Jewish American? An American Jew? Or a Gen-X, post-secular, queer, Buddhist, non-dual, post-denominational eco-Jew who has lived in Israel and davens Renewal, Reconstructionist, neo-Hasidic, Conservative and independent?


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