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Column: Some of my answers to ‘Why be Jewish?’

The second installment of my new column for The Jewish Standard came out on April 17. The March column talked about the importance of the question “Why be Jewish?” So I followed up this month with some of my own personal answers to the question:

In March I wrote in the Jewish Standard about the challenges posed to the organized Jewish community by my generation, the much- (if not, over-) discussed Millennials (“So, really, why be Jewish?”).

We need to refocus ourselves, I said, by turning away from questions like “Who is a Jew?” The key Jewish question of our time is this: Why be Jewish? “With the arrival and maturation of my generation, the Millennials, the question, ‘Who is a Jew?’ is rather passé,” I wrote. “The fact is that ‘Who is a Jew?’ is the wrong question. To maintain our relevance—to regain it, really—the question we must ask today is ‘Why be Jewish?’”

Although the rest of the column more deeply addressed the Millennials and the reasons to ask the why-be-Jewish question, a couple of readers (who read the piece much more sharply than I apparently had) pointed out that I did not offer my answer to the question.

They were right to point that out. It’s cheap to demand that others answer the question on my behalf. So I’ll offer up some answers here.

Check out the rest of it at The Jewish Standard.

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My new column: Answering ‘Why be Jewish?’

I started writing a monthly column for The Jewish Standard (“the oldest Jewish weekly in New Jersey“) back in March. Many thanks to my friend, Larry Yudelson, for the opportunity.

The first installment, “Ask the right questions,” was published on March 6:

With the arrival and maturation of my generation, the Millennials, the question “Who is a Jew?” is rather passé.

Forget the halachic dimensions to this endlessly debatable topic. Forget all the moralizing arguments over the issue. Forget the demographically induced paranoia, the post-Holocaust hand-wringing, the Israeli legal maneuvering (not to mention the pandering that comes with it), and the denominational infighting. And — for heaven’s sake! — forget the Pew study.

The fact is that “Who is a Jew?” is the wrong question. To maintain our relevance — to regain it, really — the question we must ask today is “Why be Jewish?”

Check out the rest of it over here. It was also published, with the very slightest of tweaks, by New Jersey Jewish News.

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My new job: Program Associate, Jewish Outreach Institute

For a while there I was very anxious about my search for a new job:

  • What should it be?
  • Do I want to stay in journalism?
  • What kind of career do I want?
  • What will the rest of my life look like? Are there any other unnecessarily big questions that will make this an even more stressful time that I’m not already stressing about that I should be stressing about?
  • Etc?

My therapist, however, was too smart for that shit. Her advice, plainly obvious in retrospect, was this: There’s no need to figure out your entire life just yet; for now, all you need is a job you can see yourself doing for a few years. That was several months ago. Looking back, it’s laughable what a stunning revelation that seemed me. As I’m only qualified to work in the Jewish non-profit world, I made a list of Jewish non-profits doing work I believe in, hoping that one or two would have openings I could apply for.

The Jewish Outreach Institute was on the top of my list. As luck would have it, they needed a new Program Associate. I start on Monday!

They do great work, working to make the entire  Jewish community more open, inviting and welcoming to more kinds of Jews. Here are a couple of their (our?) programs I’m most excited about:

  • The Mothers Circle: a series of programs for women from other backgrounds who are raising Jewish children with their Jewish partners. Given my own background, this program really speaks to me.
  • Passover in the Matzah Aisle: More Jews observe Passover in one way or another than any other Jewish holiday. Because it’s mostly observed in the home, none of the barriers to entering a Jewish institution are present. JOI meets them right where they are, setting up in grocery store matzah aisles.

That is all. Carry on.

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Help David A.M. Wilensky Get a Job

After two years, my term as Editor in Chief of New Voices and Executive Director of the Jewish Student Press Service is nearly up. I’m leaving New Voices and JSPS at the end of June to do… something else.

I may stay in journalism, I may move into communications or I may do something entirely new. I’m looking at and applying for a variety of things, all in either the non-profit world or the journalism/internet content world, most in the Jewish non-profit world.

If you know of something you think I could do, let me know!

Thanks, y’all.

UPDATE: I have a new job!

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Life updates: wardrobe changes, behind the scenes at The Forward, etc.

If you had some notion that you might like to know what the bathroom at The Forward looks like, here it is.

Hey, everyone. It’s been a while. Since I last posted, a few things have happened:

  • I stopped wearing tzitzit. Actually, that happened in December, but I don’t think I ever mentioned it here. Sorry.
  • I started dressing kind of like an adult.
  • I don’t grumble under my breath to myself when I put a kippah on before going to services anymore. (Which is not to say that I don’t immediately rip it off when I leave the building. The only reason I put it on before I get there is that I’m afraid I’ll forget and then the USCJ kippah patrol will set the dogs on me.)
  • Back in the fall/summer, when I started working semi-normal hours in an office (like a normal adult), I was doing a lot of pants/untucked-collared-shirts-with-buttons-all-the-way-down/sport-jacket kind of things.
  • But then I realized I lost all this weight (it was on accident, I promise; no one congratulate me — because people always do that, but it’s undeserved because it’s not like I sit on my ass any less than I did before). Having lost weight, I could now tuck my shirt in, which I’ve always hated doing. (Just ask my dad.)
  • So I started doing that for like a week, but it still bugged me so I bought a waistcoat.
  • Yes, I know, normal people call it a vest, but calling it a waistcoat achieves two excellent things: First, you get to say a silly word. Second, you get to use a more arcane word with overtones of eccentric pomposity.
  • I now have three waistcoats and I wear one every day. (Read: I wear one every office day.)
  • It took me some time, but I’ve made my peace with tucking my shirt in.
  • T.M.I. alert… in 3, 2, 1….
  • Here’s the one thing that still bugs me, the little extra bit of complexity this newfound tucked-in-and-put-together-ness has brought my life: Going to the bathroom is way more complex now. (Not the standing version, obviously.)
  • Wearing tzitzit and going to the bathroom was like a cakewalk compared to this craziness.
  • I had plans to relate at least a couple other things in this post, but it’s pretty clear this post has gotten away from me.
  • And that I have no idea what
  • bullet
  • points
  • are
  • really
  • for.
  • If you didn’t read the caption on the photo above, but you did read the headline, and you are now disappointed that this post is coming to an end without any hint of anything “behind the scenes at The Forward,” the photo above is from the bathroom at The Forward. In case you had a smoldering desire to know what the bathroom at The Forward looks like.
  • Or something.
  • OK. Bye now.
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