Gen Z and Judaism

Gen Z is a completely different breed, both so innocent and worldly at the same time. I was jarringly woken up to this fact when my sweet mature ten year old Tamar asked me, “How do gay people have children?” In her basic understanding, kids can only be born with both a male and female. I brushed it off with a brief answer until the term homophobic came up in her surprising vocabulary.

In my naivete, I assumed these conversations were the product of my children growing up in an open non sheltered environment, in a city which is mostly non religious. But when I substituted in a religious girls middle school, I heard terms like preferred pronouns and bisexual being thrown around during their breaks between classes. One girl even proudly showed me her backpack keychain with a rainbow, stating her support for the LGBT community. 

On the other hand, today’s Gen Zers don’t even know what peanut butter is, thanks to school wide bans because of fatal peanut allergies. I recall how thrilled my kids were to be eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during lockdown when they were doing their Zoom schooling, because they were literally eating forbidden food.

When it comes to pop culture, unless someone is a TikTok star or has at least ten million subs on YouTube, they can’t be counted as famous; it doesn’t matter if it’s Michael Jackson or Madonna. Mr. Beast is going to win over as the most iconic celebrity in every match up by far.

Terms like clickbait and less formal expressions like SUS, based, no cap, and bussin are all part of their daily sparse vocabulary. These kids can effortlessly edit studio quality horror story clips for their TikTok accounts, all the while misspelling every single subtitle in their ingenious endeavors. Creating content is their specialty, they don’t let minor issues like egregious spelling mistakes get in the way. 

With the advent of Amazon, everything can be accessible to them, both cheaply and quickly. The flip side being that this also means that everything is disposable. There’s no need to save Purim costumes when again next year will just be a different overnight delivery. Being concerned with the quality of something only applies to boomers and to some millennials.

Even though these kids are living in a dream world where they can order GrubHub and DoorDash with a few clicks on their phone, they’re probably the most selfless generation by far. They’re hyper aware of social injustices and are born activists. They have aggressive no bullying policies at school and are taught to respect each of their peers equally. 

They live in a society with community institutions who have the utmost sensitivity to their emotional wellbeing and they learn by example. There’s no such thing as higher and lower math in their schools, each class is given a code name so as not to embarrass anyone. There’s no individual costumes on Purim, only class themes, so that students won’t feel bad about being left out of a friends’ group costume idea. They are the pioneers of the most inclusive, warm, and welcoming generation which is embodied in every facet of their life, including their Judaism.

About the Author
Chava Berman Kaplan grew up in Los Angeles, CA in an orthodox community in the La Brea Fairfax neighborhood. She moved to Israel in her early twenties, first residing in Jerusalem, then Bet Shemesh, and now in Holon. She has two children, ages twelve and ten, who study in a mamlachti school in Holon. She works as an English teacher and has always enjoyed writing as a hobby.
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