5 Ways to Prevent a 'Fragile Jew' Epidemic
Efforts to protect younger Jews appear to be backfiring, which threatens our People.
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Many young Jews, in Israel and around the world, seem to lack resilience nowadays.
Generally, we know that people build resilience through the pursuit and endurance of challenges.
“Pain is not just a teacher,” said Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and bestselling author. “It’s a relic — a reminder of your ability to withstand adversity.”
Yet many of today’s young Jews are enclosed in environments which over-emphasize “safe spaces” — only making them less resilient — or what I’ll call fragile Jews.
Fragile Jews are on the verge of writing off Judaism and their Jewishness because they tend to lack deep-seated Jewish pride and dignity; likely have a feeble or non-existent relationship with Israel and Israeli culture, society, history, et cetera; seek mission and purpose seemingly everywhere except Judaism; or some combination thereof.
The fragile Jew reminds me of, albeit under different circumstances, many Jews before the State of Israel, who displayed “an older Jewish pattern of relying on powerful Gentile guardians, whose ongoing protection must be secured through the techniques of political maneuver and intrigue,” according to Eli Spitzer, headmaster of a Hasidic boys’ school in London.1
But the State of Israel, founded in 1948, transformed an extraordinary amount of Jews. It made these Jews more ferocious, more unapologetic, more daring, more adventurous, more optimistic, more heroic, more glorious. And it led to a conception of “the New Jew, whose soul and character would be purged of the disfigurements impressed upon the Diaspora Jew by millennia of exile,” Spitzer wrote.
“Each Zionist thinker differed in identifying which aspects of the Old Jew were particularly objectionable, and thus which aspects of the New Jew were most crucial to inculcate,” Spitzer added, “but all agreed that something had gone drastically wrong in Jewish history which went far beyond the persecution that Jews had suffered at Gentile hands.”
Yet, “the Old Jew” — and with it, “Old Judaism” — is making a comeback of sorts. The result? Many of today’s young Jews are more insecure, more easily offended, and more reliant on others. They have been taught to seek authority figures to solve their problems and shield them from discomfort, a condition sociologists call “moral dependency.”
To be sure, our elders have had the best of intentions. But efforts to protect younger Jews appear to be backfiring. When we raise kids unaccustomed to facing anything on their own — including antisemitism — our People are threatened.
How did we come to raise a generation of Jews who can’t handle the basic challenges of being and doing Jewish? And more importantly, how can we prevent “fragile Jews” from becoming an all-out epidemic among the Jewish People?
Here are five places to start: