New Jew

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

We are the New Jews, out, loud, proud, and in your face. We are the Hello, Im Jewish generation. So begins Londoner Sasha Friezes New Jew Manifesto.

Shes describing a large-scale phenomenon of the past five to 10 years that has caused no little bafflement and concern to Jewish sociologists and communal leaders here and in the United States.

New Jews are usually (but not always) young, at ease with their Jewishness and happy to express it in a range of eclectic, unpredictable and self-chosen forms: Jewish film, going to get bagels at 2am, sponsored environmental cycle rides in Israel, or whatever.

The headache for communal leaders is that New Jews are not terribly interested in the organised Jewish community. They tend not to go to shul much, Israel is not a big part of their identity and New Jews are impatient with the is-it-good-for-

the-Jews insularity that they perceive in the establishment (the lampooning of which in Jonny Gellers recent book makes it a New Jew phenomenon).

Todays New Jews are not the first to claim the title. The founding generation of Israeli pioneers also called themselves the New Jews, taking up the confident, outdoorsy, self-reliant values of the Hebrew-speaking sabra, in opposition to the bookish, fearful, inward-looking passivity that they saw in the Old Jews of the diaspora.

Twenty-first century New Jews believe that, with antisemitism basically a thing of the past, the inner freedom and self-confidence that the early Zionists aspired to can now be enjoyed in the diaspora. I would not bet the studio flat in Cricklewood on it.

Last updated: 12:32pm, March 6 2009