“They’re very smart, but they have no sense of humor.”
My mom came to visit me from California recently, and she was her bluntly honest self in reviewing the Shabbat services we went to last Friday night.
“But Mom, that’s how it goes with political activists sometimes.”
“Yes, but they really took themselves too seriously. Like they’re so important, they’re thinking about their political messages in the middle of services”
“True… but people enjoy the services too.”
“Yes, they were very lively. I liked that part. I didn’t know most of the prayers because I’m used to Saturday services and I don’t really know the Kabbalat service, but still, it was nice to see all those young people so excited. Except…”
“Well, the dancing was a bit forced, don’t you think? They were certainly taken with themselves.”
“I dance in services too sometimes.”
“Yes, but this felt like they were showing off–I felt like they should have been in a nightclub!”
I laughed. She was right—what was my 60 year old mother going to do to participate, get up and bust a move in services?
“Plus, they were ageist.”
“Well, there was that comment in that speech about the boomers not being aware of Muslims and Palestinians, as though we’re so out of touch that we need you guys to explain things to us.”
“And all that talk about ‘young Jewish’ this and that… really, I felt a little out of place.”
“I’m not saying I had a bad time; it’s just not the sort of service for me.”
“Well there are other minyans I go to sometimes. There’s the JP minyan, and they’re not just people in their 20s.”
“Which one was that?
“The one with all the couples in their 20s and 30s.”
“Oh right, with your friend David.”
“Yeah, he helped start it. And Margie was the one who started the one we went to.”
“Why don’t you start a minyan?”
“I can’t start a minyan!”
“Because I can’t! I can do potlucks; I can’t do minyans.”
“I think you’d make a great minyan! You don’t have to do all the prayers…”
“Next time you come I’ll take you to one of the potlucks.”
Our conversation descended into the normal hilarity and bickering that happens when my mom visits, but she got me thinking–in all of our excitement to claim Judaism and to participate as a generation and get involved, are we accidentally alienating our elders? A generation gap in popular culture is to be expected, but is it normal to have a generation gap within Jewish culture? What is the nature of this rift in Judaic practice? I would love to hear other people’s thoughts.