Millennials: Map out your holidays

September 22, 2014

Birthright Israel Alumni Organization NEXT is targeting the millennial generation, Jews in their 20s and 30s, with their High Holiday initiative. The millennials are notoriously the toughest demographic to get to temple.  

“It’s pretty expensive here in LA to belong somewhere, even for Junior memberships,” said 30-year-old Jeffrey Garfinkel. So last year, when he was looking for reasonably-priced services to attend, he went on Birthright NEXT’s website and used their interactive High Holiday map.

That’s how he found out about Hillel’s services at University of Southern California.

Hillel recruited a young rabbinical intern from the nearby Hebrew Union College to lead the services, which Garfinkel said was nothing like he’d experienced before.

Last year on August 5, 2013, Birthright NEXT launched the nationwide map, which boasts an impressive list of High Holiday services, learning opportunities, retreats and meals available to young millennial Jews. For 2014, they’ve enhanced their High Holiday interactive map with more personalized features.

“This year, what we did, we not only put up a person’s contact information, but we’re also encouraging professionals to put a picture of themselves up there so that there’s somebody to look for when they show up,” said Adam Pollack, Birthright NEXT’s senior western regional director.

Since visibility is an issue and most young Jews don’t know their plethora of High Holiday options, this interactive map hopes to change that. It’s almost like JDATE for young Jews searching for their perfect High Holiday experience.

If you’re a crunchy granola, free spirited millennial, maybe Pico Shul’s the place for you, which will kickstart the Jewish New Year with a 45 minute yoga session at 9 am, followed by what Rabbi Yonah Bookstein described as an “explanatory, bilingual and traditional” service at 9:45.

Or maybe that’s not your cup of tea? Don’t sweat it. There’s a whole lineup of synagogues vying for your attendance. And with NEXT’s interactive map, you’ve got your pick of the the crop.

Can’t make up your mind? Valley Beth Shalom offers eight different services at their synagogue, each one happening in a different room. The services range from traditional (equipped with a choir), meditative (with a guitar), to Sephardic (with an Iranian cantor). If you so desire, you can do the rounds and go service-hopping without ever leaving the comforts of VBS.

If neither of these options sound compatible, you can check out the map at http://www.birthrightisrael.com/AfterTheTrip/programs/Pages/HighHolidayMap.aspx

Or if services aren’t your thing and you're a Birthright alumn, you can invite your friends and host your own Rosh Hashanah or break-the-fast meal, sponsored by NEXT. Part of NEXT's High Holiday initiative, Birthright alumni can sign up to receive resources and a stipend to host a meal.

Garfinkel, aside from using the interactive map, hosted a NEXT meal during Rosh Hashanah, where he invited his friends, most of whom weren’t Jewish and had never heard of the holy day before. For the celebratory meal, he offered a typical deli spread of bagels and lox.

“It gave me the opportunity to expose other people in my community who aren’t Jewish to some of the values and traditions that we practice,” he said.

His friends keep asking if he’s doing the meal again this year, which he said he most definitely will.

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