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Community Identification

Orthodox [Jewish] Retention by Age (Pew Research Center 2013)

When I was 18-24, I probably would have identified as Orthodox, not knowing any better. When I was 25-29, I would have identified as disaffected, having given up on finding a community I would have chosen to live within. I considered Orthodoxy and most other denominational identities that had outlived their historical relevance to be excellent examples of what Kurt Vonnegut termed a Granfaloon. Eventually I discovered a diverse world of interesting people from all sorts of backgrounds, some of whom had found wisdom and insight in Torah that were inspiring their own activism and ethical ways. This happened when I was 30 at a grassroots community without any institutional support, radically pluralistic, called Jews in the Woods. I’m grateful for my learning in yeshivot, especially Yeshivat Hadar, and a perspective, rooted in classic source texts, that yeshivot offered me, not because they helped me at all discover community (they did not), but rather because they empowered me to rely on my own intellect in seeking out those historical figures whose lineage I desired to carry forward. Knowing their thoughts helped to situate my own deeply felt concerns in the larger context of historical, intellectual, and aesthetic movements. Meanwhile, I’d be alone without those living peers and teachers that might help create the change I’d like to see in the world.


A short piece on community identity originally posted on my Facebook page, inspired by a graphic taken from the Pew Survey shared by Itai Hershman on Facebook.

About Aharon N. Varady


Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes . He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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