Young 'driven away' from British Jewish community

By Robyn Rosen, August 19, 2010

Young British Jews are being "driven away" from the community because they are under too much pressure from the older generation, according to one communal leader.

David Israel, UJIA fundraising manager, spoke on Tuesday about "what turns people off" as part of a four-day seminar on where the Jewish world will be in 2020.

It was held at the London Jewish Cultural Centre in north London.

He was joined in the session, The Biggest Turn Offs: British Jews and the Jewish Community, by journalist Tanya Gold, who said: "Some of the practices of Orthodox Jews do not fit with those of the zeitgeist, such as women in a separate gallery, lack of acceptance of homosexuals.

Mr Israel, who chaired the Limmud conference last year, said: "I love working in the community. It's fantastic and I get a real buzz, but you can't make a young person do anything.

"My parents' generation still have an idea they can make young people do things. This is the key problem. As a community, we need to stop talking about musts or makes or expectations. All you get is pressure, and some people, when they are put under that much pressure, will snap and flee. It's what drives young people away from the community.

"If you say the only way to express Judaism is through chaplaincy, that will turn people off," he said. "Students need to engage with Judaism culturally and non-religiously too."

Josh Coleman, from the Union of Jewish Students, said: "We're looking at other ways to engage Jewish students other than the usual Orthodox Friday nights, and are starting to step outside our comfort zones."

Last updated: 2:00pm, August 19 2010