It’s interesting to see the tension between Rabbi Stern and Rabbi Grossman’s posts–the former portrays himself as the purveyor of substance and the latter as the purveyor of sizzle. What we need, of course, is both. It goes without saying that we need to make Judaism accessible and inviting, but it also needs to be grounded in a content that does more than take the things people are already doing and flavor them “Jewish.” As a Reconstructionist, I’m a big believer in the collective wisdom of the Jewish people to make Jewish decisions–this is why Judaism has evolved over time and remained an organic and relevant part of Jews’ daily lives. So I don’t think we need to tell young people what their Judaism should look like, they can figure that out for themselves.
What we do need to do is emphasize the importance of Jewish identity and of proudly and publicly proclaiming their allegiance to Jewish peoplehood. We need to offer them ideas of what our civilization has created (abiding sense of holiness in the world, justice, ethics, belief in the perfectability of the world, beauty, humor) and the tools they can use (sacred texts, Jewish history, social action, liturgy, music, art) to help create a meaningful and dynamic Judaism in their own time. Then we watch them go in directions we can’t possibly imagine. The key is to get young Jews to care, to be invested in the Jewish project, to understand that being Jewish is important–possibly the most significant aspect of their being. It all flows from there.