Perhaps I’m biased, but I believe stories about young Jewish people are important. In a rapidly changing political environment, religion adapts, and Jewish kids have a vastly different religious experience than their parents. Judaism intersects with sexuality, race and class, and though tradition binds the tribe together, each person practices Judaism uniquely.
This complex relationship shines through in the funny and charming stories in “It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories,” a new anthology that came out earlier this month. Jewish authors like David Levithan, Hannah Moskowitz and Dana Schwartz detail the struggles of college, love and not coming off as total nerds through a quintessentially Jewish lens. In “Indoor Kids,” a space enthusiast at a basketball camp falls for a fellow counselor. In “The Hold,” a gay Orthodox man looks back on a bittersweet romance. Goldy Moldavsky writes a hilarious and heartfelt journey as two best friends attempt to find the right Shabbos party. The stories bubble with life and tension, a peek into the rich, teeming Jewish world of 2019.
In her introduction, actress Mayim Bialik writes: “Judaism is not about choosing things you always agree with in your religion and clinging to them. Judaism is about seeing the world for what it is and being part of a community that is greater than the sum of its parts. The beauty of the Jewish experience is in its ability to adapt….” This statement not only characterizes the stories within the anthology, but a wide swath of the Jewish experience as a whole. Jewish friends tell me that the emphasis on questioning and learning is most valuable to them within the Jewish community and that while tradition is important, rigidity leads to stagnation.
The authors, in tandem with Locke and Silverman, create a bold, eclectic mix of observances within this collection. As someone raised Reform, I was interested to explore the Orthodox world and how it has changed over time through the eyes of young Jewish people. The fact that “It’s A Whole Spiel” features Jewish authors only sweetens the pot, as the detailed viewpoints presented in the stories do not feel heavy-handed or overly saccharine. In all, this anthology serves as a jumping-off point not only for Jewish teens and young adults to find identity, but for their non-Jewish peers to learn about Judaism as well.