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Forum for the Future: We Need Welcoming
by Joanna Brinton

Age: 28

Profession: Non-profit fundraising. Previously, a JDC Jewish Service Corps fellow in Austria and member of the AJWS Volunteer Corps on the Thailand/Burma border.

Jewish Childhood Influences: Raised as a Jew by interfaith parents, I became a bat mitzvah and was confirmed at Temple Ohev Sholom in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Youth groups helped develop my Jewish identity by connecting me with other Jewish teenagers from across the state and allowing me to assume leadership roles in a Jewish organization. After involvement in BBYO I worked to establish a NFTY chapter at my temple. I was also inspired by the community, meaningful experiences, and friends I made at URJ Kutz Camp as both a camper and later a counsellor for teenagers with special needs.

Perspectives on 20s and 30s Engagement: I am not officially a temple member since the dues are too expensive. In the future, I hope to join a Reform synagogue with a lively young adult program, such as Temple Israel in Boston. For now, I attend services, participate in programs, and volunteer with Jewish groups in Boston geared to busy young adults—in particular, those that welcome newcomers and offer a myriad of ways for us to get involved. I felt comfortable at the outset at Boston’s Vilna Shul, where the lay leader of the young adult service said from the bimah, “If you do not know anyone here, come talk to me” and instructed designated ambassadors to stand up so first-timers like me had even more people to talk with.

This type of atmosphere helps a lot, but it isn’t enough for some of my friends who will not attend a Jewish event alone. That’s where Facebook and other social media come in—when you can see that people you know will be there, it lessens the apprehension and fear. Free food helps too!

I’m glad that the Jewish establishment is changing. Traditionally, congregations have been geared to people with children—you attend Hebrew school as a child, get married, then your children attend Hebrew school, etc.—but in today’s world, young adults are getting married later or not at all. At least in Boston there seem to be endless options for Jewish young adults who don’t fit the old mold. This development makes me optimistic about the Jewish future. My friends are making “Jewish choices,” which are becoming integral parts of their lives.


Union for Reform Judaism.