A percentage of our youth are disaffected. Orthodox Jewish youth. A subset of the generation that is drawn to the excitement of the world or turned off by a dry education system or parental and communal restrictions. Or so I say. But as my own teens remind me regularly, what do I know?
So I’ve asked and challenged them, tell me “Why does Judaism suck?” Yes, a provocative question designed to get their interest and get a deep answer from them.
They’ve taken up my challenge. A worldwide group of disaffected Jewish teenagers, girls and boys from orthodox homes, have responded. Here it is, here’s why, in their own words, the Judaism of today doesn’t work for them. From Ramat Beit Shemesh Israel, Passaic New Jersey, Jerusalem Israel, Crown Heights New York, here’s why Judaism sucks….
(These are their own words. Very minor edits for grammar and spelling to keep the reading easy.)
A: It’s not that Judaism sucks, it’s that people these days really corrupted it and teach it totally the wrong way. So I think that that’s one of the main problems. It’s the people, not the religion. The school systems need to be changed, and the way that it’s taught.
B: Maybe like the adults and teachers are hypocrites. They don’t keep what they teach. They teach to fear God which isn’t good. They should teach that we should love God and not fear him. They also focus too much on like external stuff these days, like how high your socks are and are not teaching the more important stuff like morals
and how to act and behave. They should focus more on being a good person then how high your socks are. For example adults and teachers say you shouldn’t speak lashan hara, then go and talk to all the parents and teachers about you! People should just be real and true.
C: They say when you are young (a child) everything can influence you and they are right. Their influence is what screws with you, confuses you, makes everything complicated.
D: Judaism doesn't provide enough answers. How do you expect a young child to go about his life with no answers just curiosity?
E: I think it sucks because it’s a shallow minded religion. Things that it says don’t work for our generation. Kids don’t want to hear how they can’t do anything enjoyable.
F: I think Judaism itself is fine. The basis of the true religion is
great. But rabbis and sages have made up all these extra rules to add here to the original rules which, because they are man made, might be spoiling the purity of the religion.
G: I don't think the religion sucks, I think that it's not being taught properly. There are people out there distorting it and taking things a little bit too far. I don't think that the extra rules the rabbi's added on a while ago spoils the purity, I think its more all the extra rules being added on NOW. And while “E” is right about kids not wanting to hear about it now, but often it’s because they don't get what it's really about and don’t understand why they can't do the things they want to do.
H: Know ANYBODY who teaches it well? Can’t say I know any one or any rabbi who does.
I: In short I find even when you do all the right things it still seems to be a dark world, and basically that’s why I think it’s all (feces).
J: Judaism is awesome, it’s just the people who represent it nowadays are stuck in a steel box and are doing it all wrong. But Judaism in and of itself is beautiful. If it was taught in the right way people would be a lot more into it.
K: Judaism is beautiful...one creator, angles, spirits, mysticism, heaven,.... But it’s based on ancient culture.
L: What the rabbi's added in the times of the Gemara isn't bad at all, it's just as pure as the rest of the Torah. But people are adding on their own stuff and taking it too far now, which is wrong.
- The seeming incongruity between the modern world and what is perceived to be an antiquated system.
- The unbearable hypocritical messages that adults and authority figures send to our youth
- The idea that some of these kids feel stifled in their curiosity, and that maybe are yearning for more
I am not trying to assign any blame to anybody here; we all know that there is a struggle to 'keep our heads above water' - especially when it comes to daily living. But this is our future talking here; these kids represent the next generation, and we have a responsibility to teach them according to their needs. That does not mean that we have to make concessions in halacha, but we do have to engage them! Some of these kids seems to be pleading with us, if you read between the lines. They are not rejecting Judaism - on the contrary, in their own eyes they believe that they recognize (to an extent) what Judaism is really about, and what is important.
The truth is, they have some really good points...