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Finding a Jewish Path After College, Before Kids rss

Posted on: July 18th, 2013

Many young adults in their 20s and 30s are still finding their footing professionally, socially, and religiously. They’re out of college but not necessarily ready to start a family yet, which means they sometimes fall through the cracks of the standard programs that a lot of synagogues offer. That’s why UJA-Federation of New York has given grants to 10 synagogues to create or expand existing programming geared towards young Jews at this stage in their lives.

romemu young tish

Members of Romemu’s Young Tish having dinner at a pre-Passover program where they contemplated the exodus from Egypt, and shared experiences of the things that made them feel free and enslaved. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bickoff

These young Jews are in a period of “transition from college and from that time in your life when you don’t really have to make all the decisions,” says Jonathan Bickoff, a lay leader of one of the projects resulting from the grants — the Young Tish, the 20s and 30s group at Romemu on the Upper West Side. “Once you get out into the real world, you can really choose or not choose your religious path, especially in New York where there’s every option under the sun.”

Beginning to Learn From Each Other

But this wealth of options makes it all the more important to have programs designed specifically for young Jews in their 20s and 30s, says Ilene Sameth, the executive director of Romemu. “I think that when people in this age group are looking to really figure out a Judaism that reflects who they are, they need to see it reflected in people who are their age,” Sameth says, “and from there they can begin to learn from each other.”

She added that she’s been surprised by how quickly the program has grown and it’s really had an impact on the whole Romemu community. “Because of the success of this program, I now have people in their 40s and 50s saying, ‘we’d really like programs created for our age group that reflect our life needs as well,’” Sameth says.

At the synagogues that received grants, the programming ranges from social and cultural events such as a Jewish independent film festival and Shabbat dinners in community members’ homes, to prayer groups, text study, and classes.

“One of my favorite programs this year was volunteering for Sandy relief in the Rockaways,” says Abigail Pick, a lay member of the Young Professionals Committee at Darkhei Noam, another Manhattan synagogue that received a grant for programming. “It was inspiring to have a ‘sold out’ event of people devoting their free time to volunteering, and it was a great opportunity to get to know members of the community outside formal davening.”

This year’s grant recipients were:

• Congregation Magen David of Manhattan
• Congregation Mount Sinai (Brooklyn)
• Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale
• Darkhei Noam (Manhattan)
• Romemu (Manhattan)
• Kolot Chayeinu (Brooklyn)
• Park Slope Jewish Center (Brooklyn)
• Stanton Street Shul (Manhattan)
• Stephen Wise Free Synagogue (Manhattan)
• Town & Village Synagogue (Manhattan)

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