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 4 of 4)

Three responses, though, are possible. The first is to remember that even these bedrock institutions have evolved, often quite quickly. Israeli places of worship look nothing like American synagogues, and American synagogues look nothing like what they looked like a century ago. While one should not be sanguine or exuberant about change for its own sake, impermanence is in the nature of the universe.

Second, the Jewish community might take a cue from capitalism and welcome the messy ecosystem of innovation rather than the tidy gardens of yesteryear. Post-everything Judaism is more like the bazaar than the cathedral; it is a laboratory in which many initiatives fail but in which innovation is also more likely to succeed than in top-down, command-and-control environments in which we do the same thing that we’ve always done because that’s what we do.

Finally, doing what we’ve always done has failed. When I talk with Jewish organizations about the risks of innovation, of open source Judaism, of providing platforms rather than content, I admit we have no idea how this will turn out. But we do know the traditional model is not turning out enough committed Jews to keep itself afloat, and institutions are facing existential challenges. Sometimes the unknown is better than the known.

For many less-involved and less-interested Jews, the same old same old — the same liturgies, cultural markers, organizational affiliations — still fits the bill. Probably most Jews are not interested in or Jewishly educated enough for richer forms of engagement. But the cultural creatives, that motivated minority whose energy and dedication power entire communities, are already leaving mega-synagogues for other modes of community affiliation, already hybridizing and experimenting, and finding other Jews interested in immigration reform, or permaculture, or Kabbalah, or whatever. The mainstream can kvetch about this, or hope that it reverses itself once this generation’s kids are ready for day school, but kvetching and hoping are usually not enough to change the world.

Nor should they be. This is an exciting time for those interested in taking ownership of their Judaism, and for those institutions ready to thrive by empowering them in open source, platform-enabling ways. A thousand Jewish flowers are blooming already, even if they look like weeds to some who run the greenhouses. With nourishment and attention, they might produce an abundant harvest.


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!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • 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?
  • 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.