Young Professional Groups Offer “Millennials” a Fresh Approach to Judaism
On the second Friday of every month, a group of 20-and 30-year-old young professionals gather at Los Angeles’ Sinai Temple for an alternative-style Shabbat, featuring a free Happy Hour, a special musical performance and an Oneg Shabbat Dinner. As studies show that millennials are waiting later than past generations to get married and have kids, young professional groups like Sinai Temple’s “Atid” and Congregation Beth El’s “Chai” in La Jolla, CA, serve as a key way to keep young adults engaged with a fresh approach to Judaism, while also giving them a chance to strengthen their Jewish identity and be a part of a thriving Jewish community.
Before social media and Jewish dating apps, Atid was created nearly 20 years ago out of necessity to bring Jewish young professionals together, according to Atid Director Matt Baram. Today, the program is one of Los Angeles’ biggest Jewish young professional groups, with about 2,500-3,000 people attending at least one event each year. It’s also one of the few programs in Los Angeles that associates with a synagogue, which helps revitalize the way young people view Judaism as a whole. “We try to incorporate Sinai Temple in all of our programming, whether it’s having a Rabbi present at an event, making sure we do something to celebrate holidays or having a variety of Shabbat programming,” he says. “I’ve had people come up to me who thought Judaism wasn’t for them or that synagogues couldn’t speak to them anymore and say that we helped redefine their Jewish footing.”
Atid mixes in several events throughout the month, including weekly basketball and yoga, monthly guest lectures that touch on topics ranging from Israel to marriage and social activities such as going to a Dodgers baseball game, hiking, bowling and speed dating for singles. For Purim this year, the program held a masquerade party where attendees wore red and black apparel and enjoyed a buffet and a night of mingling and drinks.
“I strongly believe that we can provide people within the ‘I’m out of college but I haven’t started a family’ space with a Judaism that is relevant and works with where they are at in life,” Matt says. “From the perspective of a typical young professional, we make Judaism both fun and relevant. We give you a place to make new friends and see old ones, with a Jewish foundation and we have a pretty portfolio of programming.”
Matt believes the goal of any synagogue-based young professional group needs to be to create young professionals who want to be a part of synagogue life now or as they get older and start a family. “This has to be done with the understanding that it may not be at your synagogue, depending on where the young professional settles down, and that’s okay,” he says. “If we work toward that goal, then we’re going to create a generation that wants to be members of the synagogue and that benefits all of us.”
For more information about Atid, visit here.
The impact Chai has had on young adults in the La Jolla Jewish community has been clear to Coordinator Jenna Ross. “The group helps young people to not be so scared of the synagogue,” Jenna says. “We give them a platform where they get to meet and talk with the Rabbi and get to know him on a personal level, as well as other people their age.”
Chai events range from monthly Shabbat and major holiday celebrations, to wine and cheese night and “Jews in the Brew,” where people meet at a local bar or brewery and discuss pressing Jewish topics over a drink. “Your 20s and 30s are a huge time in your life because you’re getting into a career, getting married and maybe soon having kids—it may not hit you right after college graduation, but once these life stages hit, you start to change,” Jenna says.
Outside of giving young people a chance to meet new friends and find a potential partner, Chai’s benefits go well beyond that. “It’s a great place for people to network—there’s plenty of people who’ve found jobs through meeting someone at a Chai event,” Jenna says. “Plus, for people who can’t make it home for a holiday, they know they can come here and never be alone for a holiday meal.”
For more information about Chai, visit here.