Monday, August 13, 2007

Gen X, Gen Y

One of the recurring themes at the Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education this year was the thirst for Jewish learning - and Jewish connection - among young adults, roughly ages 21 through 35. Sarah Liebman, who directs a program for this cohort in Portland, Oregon, said at the first adult-education session, and reiterated at the closing session of the conference, that young, mostly single, adults have both the time and the desire to learn Jewishly.

Contrast this with young parents, the group that synagogue educators struggle to draw into family and adult education. Most young parents don't have much time; they're running as fast as they can just to keep up. Furthermore, it's at odds with their life stage, because parents of young children place their children's education needs ahead of their own.

We would do better to begin educating people at an adult level before they marry and have children. In general we are not geared up to do this. Synagogue programs naturally orient themselves toward synagogue members, and most of this cohort has not joined a synagogue. Some are even reluctant to become involved casually with a synagogue (especially if there could be pressure to become members). Several participants recommended holding programs for young adults in locations such as public libraries.

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