Jewish Youths Returning to Faith

March 15, 2000

Source: The Boston Globe

On March 15, 2000, The Boston Globe published an article on the phenomenon of Jewish youth returning to traditional forms of Judaism. Rebecca Katz, a 23-year-old Harvard Law student, grew up in an assimilated Jewish family. At Harvard, she's been learning Hebrew and celebrating a traditional Shabbat. Katz tells that her parents are not pleased: "My mother explicitly used the word 'rebellion.' She feels very much that I'm doing this to get back at her...Before, I didn't really care about honoring my mother and father. It's strange, because now I feel very strongly about honoring them, but there's this enormous strife." Harriet Gilman, a children's librarian who lives in the Chicago area, recounts her reactions to when she found out her daughter began observing traditional Judaism when she went to college: "Our first reaction was, "oh my gosh, where is this coming from?'...It was a total departure from the way our family lived...We really didn't understand why she would choose to do this." Larry Sternberg, associate director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, said that many parents feel that a child is critiquing his or her elders' way of life when children become more religious. Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis, spoke about unity in the Jewish community: "There's a turning away from an emphasis on ethnicity to an emphasis on religion and faith as the glue that will hold Jews together."