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Storytellers

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10/23/2012

 Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation photo

Book cover design by Alyssa Zeller.

Have you read the new Jewish anthology actress and author Mayim Bialik calls "the definitive 'Who am I? and why am I?' book for Jews of our generation"?

Edited by Stefanie Pervos Bregman, associate editor of JUF News, Oy!Chicago blogger-in-chief, and JUF's manager of digital communications, Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation (Academic Studies Press), is a collection of personal essays and memoirs from Jewish 20- and 30-somethings from across the country. This book tackles hot button issues of Jewish identity, connection to Israel, and what it means to be a young Jew in today's world. 

Each contributor brings a unique perspective as they tell their self-defining Jewish story. In his essay, "Shomer Negiah in the City," Matthue Roth tackles the conflicted and sometimes hypocritical nature of the modern Orthodox dating world. In "To Be a Jew in the world" Stacey Ballis makes the Passover Seder her own. "My (Jewish-Interfaith-Lesbian) wedding," by Chai Wolfman explores the challenges of same-sex and interfaith relationships today. Other essay topics include JDate, connection—or lack thereof—to Israel, issues surrounding conversion, and the seemingly impossible task of defining what it means to be a young Jew in America today.

The book is available in paperback and hardcover on Amazon.com and from other book retailers. For more information about where to buy the book, the contributors, and how you can share your Jewish story, visit www.livingjewishlybook.com or at www.facebook.com/livingjewishlybook .

 Storytellers photo 2

As a Jewish blogger and editor, I always say that the period leading up to Jewish Book Month is one of my favorite times of the year. So many books come across my desk for review—I only wish I had the time to read them all. Each author, each new book, is not just a potential article for my magazine or blog post. To me, every author—whether they write fiction or non-fiction—is a storyteller, adding their own piece to our collective Jewish story.

This year the tables have turned, and I'm the one hoping and wishing that Jewish editors and writers will choose my book from among the great pile for review—the thought makes me feel proud, humble, and frightened all at once. 

In putting together my new anthology, Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation, I hoped to be a storyteller as well. In the Jewish world, engaging 20- and 30-somethings is a hot button issue—questions like 'How do we get young Jews to feel connected to Israel? To affiliate with traditional Jewish institutions? To care about Jewish continuity, ritual, and tradition?' float around waiting to be answered.

As a member of this elusive generation myself, I live and breathe these questions in my personal life and as a Jewish professional. As I recently completed my master's degree in Jewish professional studies, I became determined to tell the story of my generation.  

To get started, I sent out a call for stories to my peers:

Are you a Jewish 20- or 30-something with a story to tell? Do you want to be part of a collection of voices that together tell the unique story of our generation?

Within hours, my email box was flooded. I received close to 50 submissions-all remarkable, rich, and more diverse than I could have ever imagined.

In Living Jewishly, I put these essays together to create a window into our Jewish lives and identities. Each essay is beautiful, unique, brutally honest, and revealing. In truth, it is my contributors who are the real storytellers—without them, the story, the picture, would not be complete.

I often think about what it means to really be a storyteller. To me, this is not a title to be taken lightly. With it comes certain responsibility, not just to inform, but to do so artfully, shedding light on topics that may otherwise have been left untold. 

While I don't think I've solved the mystery of my generation, I do have some insights into the types of stories we want to tell. However it is that we express ourselves Jewishly, I'm certain that every Jewish 20- or 30-something has an interesting story to tell-and maybe all we need is the opportunity to tell it.

This article first appeared as a part of the Jewish Book Council (www.jewishbookcouncil.org) and MyJewishLearning's (www.myjewishlearning.com) guest blogging series, Visiting Scribes.

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