Torah Judaism and the Four Premium Values of Today’s Youth

R. D. Joshua Berman has a good post on “Why Are Young People Leaving Religion?” at Torah Musings. He references a book titled “You Lost Me”, by David Kinnaman, a devout Christian and a sociologist who discusses the four premium values of today’s youth:

Choice and Tolerance: What a young person sees is an endless parade of people like himself making choices about the ideals to follow and the lifestyle to lead and airing the feelings about the choices they’ve made. The result is that the paramount virtue of the younger generation is tolerance. We all do something a little differently, and that’s ok. Traditional religion, of course, says that there are absolutes, and that there is a core one, right way.

Complexity, Uncertainty and Doubt – In this vast exposure to viewpoints and ideas, young people quickly learn that there are no absolutes. They find cogent arguments against the existence of God, the divinity of the Torah, traditional notions of sexuality and endless more. They are more keenly aware of complexity than any generation of youngsters before them. When articles of faith are presented to them as simple fact with no complexity, they sense something phony.

Individual Expression – The Facebook post, the selfie – these accentuate for a young person the importance of self-expression, of being a unique and distinct “me.” They witness in their peers incredible creativity of expression literarily, musically, and artistically. For this generation davening in shul is a challenge – in shul, you do the same thing every single time, and you do it in lock-stop with everybody else.

Reduced Regard for Hierarchy and Authority – You don’t need to turn to anyone anymore to gain knowledge. No matter what question you have, it’s all there on the internet. The internet knows best, not father. Young people don’t turn to adults for advice; there’s Google for that. Once upon a time rabbis were placed on a pedestal, their esteem was unquestioned. But today, no models enjoy unquestioned esteem. Heroic athletes turn out to be steroid cheats. For young people, regular reports of rabbinic misconduct mean that today a rabbi must earn his esteem. It is no longer automatically assumed.

Go read the article to see Dr. Berman’s suggestions for dealing with these issues.

2 comments on “Torah Judaism and the Four Premium Values of Today’s Youth

  1. Administrator said:

    “in shul, you do the same thing every single time”.

    my response:

    That is true for most Jews, but not for me, because I add many personal requests to the end of my Shemoneh Esrai prayer. These personal requests include:

    [1] my own material well-being
    [2] the material well-being of my fellow-Jews
    [3] my own spiritual well-being
    [4] the spiritual well-being of my fellow-Jews.

  2. The above linked article and R Y Katz’s claim that young people “don’t want answers” are part of a larger issue-Regardless of how you view yourself hashkafically, intellectual honesty requires parents to accept and realize that they are transmitting a Mesorah , a legacy and tradition of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim to their children, as opposed to merely providing an expensive private school education with Judaic studies, and “doing Shabbos and the holidays.” If a parent cannot provide an answer to the question to the next generation of “why be Jewish”, and is viewed by his or her children as having either a marginal or worse attitude towards Torah observance and rabbinical authorities , he or she can be seen as simply not fulfilling their obligations of transmitting this legacy to the next generation. I think that a pareve attitude towards passing on this legacy logically leads to an attitude of as long as my children lead a productive and “ethical life”. it should not be viewed as a catastrophe or a failure if they decide not to be observant as adult

Comments are closed.