The Boulder JCC recently received a grant from Roots and Branches, an initiative of Rose Community Foundation. The purpose of this grant is to create a lighthearted, innovative, friendly network of young Jews in Boulder who are interested in, and excited about, programming for the young, Jewish Boulder crowd. In order to accomplish this, I am having conversations with 100 young adult Jews in Boulder County over the next few months, to discuss what their background is and what they are looking for in terms of young Jewish adult programming.
As I am having more and more of these conversations an odd trend is starting to occur. First of all, everyone has a unique and different story in both how and why they are in Boulder as well as their personal connection to Judaism. The other trend I’m seeing is that there is a connection between all of these conversations. There is a common bond between all Jews, especially within this demographic. Some may argue that someone who classifies themselves as Secular and someone who is ultra involved with the religious and cultural aspects of the religion have very little in common. While it may be true that they don’t have much in common, not having much does not mean nothing at all. This brings me to my topic for this week: A Jewish Soul.
In this one day with three conversations, everyone I spoke to felt a deep connection to Judaism, however each expressed their connection in drastically different ways. One person felt a deep connection to the concept of Eco-Judaism which is rooted in the theory of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, which seemed to fit better with the smoothies we were drinking as opposed to a coffee or beer. Putting a Jewish twist on reducing our carbon footprint is a new concept for me, and one that fits well in Boulder. Another person I spoke to felt his connection to Judaism awaken during his experience on Birthright Israel. Even though he did not attend with people from Colorado, upon moving here, he got involved with Birthright alumni and already felt a deep-rooted connection with people he had just met. It was he who mentioned the concept of a Jewish soul to me, putting a new spin on it. If he could feel a connection with people he had just met that is deeper and more meaningful, even if on a more social level, is it outside the realm of possibility that a shared Jewish soul is the reason for this common bond? My final conversation of the day took me on a different route than I was used to: chatting over a walk. It was very fitting as this person is extraordinarily outdoorsy and a DIY kind of guy. When we approached the topic of Judaism, he gave an interesting answer. While many people in this demographic connect more on a cultural level, his connection is more spiritual. As a musician, he feels a connection to the music of our religion, as well as a deep interest in Eco-Judaism and Tikkun Olam. This is leading him to teach a class on how Judaism is related to bicycle mechanics, which would seem to fit in well in our Boulder crowd.
As I was thinking back to these three conversations later that evening, I kept on coming back to the concept of a Jewish soul. What does it mean to have a Jewish Soul? Does it mean that you believe in G-d and attend synagogue on a regular basis to affirm that belief? Does it mean you carry yourself in a way that upholds the values of Judaism? Does it mean that you are nicer to people when you find out they are fellow Jews? It could mean all of these things, it could mean none of them. How I like to perceive this concept is that common bond that is shared between all Jews. This could mean different things for different people, but that is the beauty of this concept. Having a Jewish soul doesn’t mean you believe in heaven, or G-d, or in all 613 Mitzvot, rather it means that we are, for lack of a better term, good people. Regardless of how your relationship with Judaism manifests itself, I think it is safe to say that having a Jewish soul is a beautiful way to think about how we all come together as a community and as a people.
As always, if you are a Boulder Jew between the ages of 25-35, give me a shout. I would love to take you out for coffee and talk about where you came from, what you are looking for in terms of programming for this demographic, and how we can work together to achieve this. If you know someone that fits this age group, feel free to send them my information or shoot me a line with theirs. You can contact me at Michael@boulderjcc.org or at 720-583-5522.