A Millennial Seeks Conversation on Israel
It’s a Sunday afternoon in May and I’m sitting at a conference table with seven other Jewish women. We are all members of the Women’s Discussion Group at the modern Orthodox Stanton Street Shul, my hometown synagogue. The crumbling brick walls of this historic house of worship, located on the Lower East Side of New York, today house a vibrant, down-to-earth congregation.
I founded the group in April 2018 to form a space where women felt safe to openly talk about feminist issues that sometimes seem taboo in an Orthodox setting. To my happy surprise, sessions have attracted women in all stages of life—from recent college graduates like myself to retirees. I expected questions about Israel and Zionism to arise as well—and they did.
Surveys show that younger Jews feel less connected to Israel than older Jews. Interest in taking Birthright Israel trips and attending pro-Israel conferences is declining. But through my intergenerational group, I have come to believe that younger Zionists need to build bridges to older activists and legacy organizations to make their voices heard.
I myself am the 24-year-old product of the organized Jewish world. I’ve attended Jewish day schools, summer camps and programs in Israel. As an undergraduate, I held multiple leadership roles as a member of SUNY Binghamton’s Hillel student body.
Today, it is in the established Jewish world where I would like to effect change. Rather than placing myself in an exclusively millennial, progressive niche, I have chosen to integrate my beliefs as a young Zionist—pro-peace and willing to be critical of Israeli governmental leaders—into a pre-existing conversation. My generation’s refrain seems to be “We don’t belong anywhere.” But I am proof that we do. At places like Hadassah—where I work as the Zionist policy associate—we can join and make change from within. Younger Zionists need to draw upon the knowledge and support of the establishment to secure the future of American Zionism.