Building Bridges to Jewish Adulthood

bridges2I’m wrapping up the school year with a diverse set of coffee dates, which last week ranged from H. to S.  I had never met H. before someone connected us a few weeks ago; I’ve known S. since his first visit to campus at CI.  Yet as disparate as these relationships are, I found myself provoked in similar ways by both of them.

H. began her GW journey this year, following an intensive Jewish experience abroad for the 2011-2012 school year.  S. is deeply devoted to his youth group experience, still working with the organization that was so important to his teenage years.  Each got so much out of these incredible Jewish spaces, feeling enriched, enlightened, excited by their Jewish lives and communities.  And then they went to college; each has struggled (as so many of their peers have) with the disappointment of hoping to capture the same feelings from high school and being let down that they couldn’t easily replicate these communities.

I see this happen to many students I work with; it’s human nature after all.  If we eat a delicious meal at a restaurant and then try to re-create it at home, it rarely tastes as good.  If we go to an amazing show and then look up the songs afterwards on YouTube, they rarely evoke the emotion we felt in the original moment.

I have the utmost respect for educators who create incredible high school moments for Jewish GW students.  But I also wonder what work we all need to do – high school mentors, Hillel professionals, college students – to build better bridges between a 17 year old experience and a 21 year old one. How can the amazing meal in the restaurant forge a new relationship with food, cooking, and entertaining at home?  How can the incredible concert experience be leveraged into new musical endeavors and a desire to see more shows?

How can the path to Jewish adulthood be a fluid one, rooted in strong high school experiences, carrying through to college, and continuing to blossom after graduation?  What experiences or memories have you had that can be viewed as a launchpad instead of an end point?


  1. I’m not sure things in life are fluid. I think you have to notice that things aren’t filling you the same way so you can make necessary changes. There is this great analogy in Kevin Smith’s Dogma where spirituality is likened to a cup that is filled to the brim, and as you get older the cup gets bigger but the liquid stays at the same amount so it doesn’t fill you anymore. You have to work at filling the cup throughout your life. For me it is a process of adjusting and tweaking and sometimes making sweeping changes.

    • what a great analogy…and I think it also brings up the question of who is responsible for filling the cup? You obviously need to be the ‘chief filler’ but do friends, family, people that surround you also need to play a role? and if so, how?

      thanks for your thoughts Shiffy!

  2. As usual I love your style of writing and of course the content. You explained how important creating the experience we crave. How do we step it up and outdo our past experience to make this one stand out even brighter? This I believe is our struggle throughout life. Addiction is very much about the addict yearning to capture the same feeling as the initial experience. Unfortunately and maybe fortunately for the addict, the experience is never like the original. Does the addict get discouraged? No, the addict continues and continues the journey even though they can see it is not happening, but they won’t give up. Perhaps, we fight as humans in the same way as addicts. Perhaps we just will not accept the fact that it can never be redone and just maybe we can realize that and try and create a new and different experience that will get the initial high. I wonder if growing up is to accept that life is not going to be all glitz and glamour and that what really carries on is the everyday experience of the mundane. If we accept this view, maybe we won’t only pray when inspired. Maybe we will go to work everyday and not only when we feel like. Maybe we will not expect the initial sexual experience we had with our parter to be the same. Maybe it comes down to the line in pirkei avot ( rabbinic writing of ethics of our fathers) “he who is truly happy, is happy with his lot”

    • LOVE. And you are bringing something interesting to the discussion – i.e. what happens when our quest for growth is rooted in the negative (addiction) vs. the positive (a great high school experience, as I reflected on)? How different or similar are these pursuits?

      I haven’t read her book but I was told once about Elizabeth Edwards ideas on resilience. We go through dark days and it feels like our ultimate prayer is to ‘get back to the way things used to be.’ But that’s not really what we want; I’m guessing many who go through difficult experiences don’t want to un-learn the valuable lessons they took away. Instead, true resilience is learning how to take our experiences and adjust them to the current version of their lives. The same likely goes for students on campus; do you really want to go back to high school or youth group or summer camp? Or do you want to find such a rich sense of meaning TODAY?

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