Thursday, April 9, 2009

Are Faith and Religion Important to Gen Y?

Gen Y bloggers write on a wide variety of subjects, but one that I haven't really seen too much about is religion. I realize this is a touchy subject, and it can spark long, heated debates, but it's a topic that really interests me and means a lot to me personally. Many of us are recent college grads, still in school, back in school, or starting out in our first job. We are constantly on the go, so much to do, and not enough hours in the day. So, how do we make time for faith and religion in our lives? Is it still important to us, or is it something we've put on the back burner until we're a little older?

Here's my story:

I am, and always have been, very proud to be Jewish. My dad is a rabbi, so I pretty much grew up at the temple. Many of our congregants literally knew me since I was born. I loved the sense of community, and the welcome feeling I got whenever I went there. I had great friends at temple too. We had some pretty fun times together. I excelled at Hebrew, and later went on to tutor kids preparing for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. At a pretty young age, I decided that I would not eat pork or shellfish, and that is something I plan to continue for the rest of my life. For seven years, I attended a Jewish overnight camp, and worked there for three more. Camp was where I really found my Jewish identity and truly connected to the prayers. I was involved in youth group, and traveled to Europe and Israel with my Jewish peers. Visiting places with so much Jewish history was incredibly moving. I can recite most of the prayer book (including English) by heart. I wear a ring with my Hebrew name.

Credit must be given to my parents. Despite the fact that I'm a rabbi's kid (and another rabbi's niece) Judaism was never forced on me. I went to temple because I wanted to. I made the decision to keep kosher. I decided to tutor Hebrew because I knew I could help. Throughout my life, I have made my own choices when it comes to faith and religion, and that is a large part of why I feel so positively about it. Instead of resenting the fact that I was often the most Jewish among my classmates or friends, I have always enjoyed teaching people about my holidays and traditions. From kindergarten through college, I have taught many a non-Jew to play dreidl and love latkes. I know that hatred often grows out of ignorance, so I take every opportunity to educate people.

A number of my friends had religion forced on them as kids and now have no interest in making it a part of their lives. Parents are supposed to pass the teachings of their faith onto their children, so their children can pass it on to their children, and so on. But, by not giving them any choice in how they learn and become involved in their faith, the result is children who are disenchanted and bitter. What many people don't realize is that there are many ways to live your faith. It's not just about going to temple or church, but about learning and teaching, tradition and culture, giving back to the community, exploring different communities, and so much more.

In writing this, I realized that this issue is so complex, and I haven't even scratched the surface. I guess what I'm trying to say is don't give up on your faith. Even if you have bad memories from when you were a kid, you're a grown up now, so take the opportunity for a fresh start. Give it another chance. If you think you don't have time for religion, you're wrong. You can make time. Remember that there is more to religion than the Bible. Culture, community, and traditions can be so meaningful. With everything that's going on in the world, we all need something to keep us grounded.

So, what do you think? Are faith and religion important to you? Are they important to Gen Y? (I welcome your comments, but please no negative or hateful words. They will be deleted)

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