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

(page 3 of 4)

Add that generally postmodern condition to the specifically Jewish erosion of the past century’s centrally defining characteristics of identity — the Holocaust, Israel, anti-Semitism — and it’s a wonder anyone still expects to have his or her Jewishness defined by mainstream institutions and their leaders.

Is mixtape-as-identity exciting — or terrifying? On the positive side, I find uniformity, mass culture, mainstreams and commercialized culture infantilizing and dull. Thriving cultures, Jewish or non-Jewish, have always combined influences, innovated and had multiple voices within them.

Where would Jewish culture be without borrowings such as rationalist philosophy, gefilte fish, or earth-based harvest festivals? And where would we be today if Jewish culture were artificially ossified like an old museum exhbit as it is in Jewish fundamentalist communities.

Today’s iSpirituality has created an environment of remarkable innovation and creativity in American Jewish life, especially as online communities and social technologies have spread the wealth outside of a few urban centers. There are Jewish communities organized around every conceivable social and political issue, every depth of spiritual engagement or shallow eddy of kitsch.

True, these are boutique Judaisms, populated only by a relatively small number of Jewish cultural creatives. But then again, far more people eat at McDonald’s than at locally sourced farm-to-table restaurants.

Still, one shouldn’t get breathless about the infinite permutations of an iSpiritual world. Constructing shifting identities based on multiple interests and allegiances is fun, but it doesn’t breed the kind of engagement that usually translates into philanthropic support or a commitment to continuity.

It’s harder to pass on to one’s kids. So, to the extent that the Jewish future still depends on bedrock institutions like the synagogue and the summer camp, establishment types are right to worry about these new iterations of Jewish identity.


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!
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • 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.