For about fifteen years after college, I didn’t have (or particularly want) a ‘home’ synagogue; I went to High Holiday services where I could, and otherwise observed on my own. I didn’t start going to weekly services again until my oldest child was born. That’s pretty typical of American Conservative and Reform Jews. It’s probably typical of Reconstructionist Jews, too? It occurs to me that I’ve only ever met Reconstructionist Jews in shul, and those were the ones who went to shul. I will say that I’ve several times met a random not-local just-going-to-a-service-on-Shabbos-alone Reconstructionist under the (apparent) age of forty, where a Conservative Jew without a spouse and kids just walking in to a shul on a Saturday morning would be more of a surprise. As far as there are miniscules of merit in the most wantonly fallacious stereotype, I mean.
Anyway, going to a High Holiday service was always fraught. I understand that running a congregation is pretty much impossible, and that making room for random neighborhood twenty-somethings can’t be a priority—I don’t know that I understood that at the time, but I did understand that I was at best tolerated as a body taking up space in a synagogue. And then, of course, I was asked to donate, which made me unhappy, as I was not only broke but cheap. As people are in their twenties, often enough. And I moved around a fair amount—in the fifteen years after I left college I lived in five different towns—which is also fairly common. Finding a congregation was not a priority in those years, so I would get to the end of summer and then think oh, right, I need to find somewhere to go to Kol Nidre. In my Boston years, those were often college services, which were pleasant enough (and didn’t ask for more donations!) but of course I was increasingly distant from the congregation in age and interests. And when I got “tickets” at a non-college congregation, I still felt distant from the people who knew each other and knew their way around the building.
As I say, I think these are pretty typical experiences of American Jews in their twenties (and perhaps thirties). I don’t think that a lot of us became dues-paying members of synagogues in those years—and I don’t think that a lot of us eventually joined the synagogues that we scrounged tickets to either. I think our early adult interactions with synagogues and organized Judaism was… fraught.
But. 5781 and 5782 High Holiday services went digital! It’s easy enough for any twenty-something with broadband to virtually “attend” Kol Nidre without feeling either pressure to join or pressure to donate. You probably aren’t taking up too much bandwidth, either. Just log in and daven, no questions asked.
Is something lost? Sure, something is always lost. But I am so pleased that twenty-something Jews have the option that I never had.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,