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A few months ago, I was preparing to give a presentation about Jewish millennial engagement to a group of congregational lay leaders. All of my slides were succinct and crisp, I’d practiced with some coworkers, and I was extremely excited to share strategies for engaging more millennials in Jewish life. Just as I was about to save my presentation and go home for the day, a thought hit me: Do any of them even know who a millennial is?
My mind immediately started racing. Most of my audience probably had an idea of some of the characteristics of millennials, but were they accurate? I began doubting that any of them could estimate when this generation was born, or its size, or its racial makeup. Even further, I became positive that many of them didn’t have accurate assumptions about our connection to Jewish life.
With all these thoughts swirling in my head, I turned my computer back on and decided to put together a few important facts that my audience, as Jewish lay leaders capable of making change in their communities, should know about the millennial generation. Here they are.
That makes us between the ages of 17 and 37 right now; that’s a pretty big range. And while there are no definitive year ranges for any generation, the Pew Research Center reports that most dates for the millennial generation are close to these years. Next time you talk about engaging millennials, it’s important to remember: There’s a huge scope out there!
With more than 75 million millennials in the United States and more than 10 million in Canada, millennials can no longer be an afterthought. Economists and business leaders love mentioning that millennials are now the largest generation, but Jewish leaders should be excited about this fact, too, as it presents an enormous opportunity to grow our Jewish community and make the world a better place by engaging millennials in Jewish life.
Did you know that about 43% of millennials identify as something other than exclusively White? Not only do millennials have a variety of different views on the world, we have a variety of different skin colors and ethnic backgrounds, as well. In terms of the Jewish community, it’s important to know that engaging millennials is also about engaging Jews of Color, and vice versa.
Perhaps my favorite statistic about Jewish millennials is that 37% of us had Christmas trees in our homes or apartments last year. Take that in for a minute. This generation of Jewish millennials has grown up in a time when many of their families celebrate Christmas, many of their close friends celebrate Christmas, and being part of this holiday does not take away from our connection to being Jewish.
Among all of the shifting trends and complaining about millennials, it’s so important for our Jewish community to recognize that Jewish millennials are proud of who we are. We may not always agree with the Jewish community’s decisions and programs, but we’re proud to be Jewish. The millennial generation represents new energy and optimism that will change our Jewish community, society, and world for the better. We just need the opportunities to make it happen.