Newspapers, if they’re doing their jobs correctly, are supposed to hold up a mirror to society and say: Here, have a look at us, warts and all. Perhaps we spend too much time on the warts part, reporting on all matter of scandal and trying to fulfill our duty as a government watchdog and a check on the powerful. And these days, with the impact of the Internet, perhaps we spend too much time on “click bait.”
But this week, as we hold up the mirror, we’re not seeing scandal or gossip; we’re seeing the face of the future — 36 faces of it. The future, should you want to take a gander, begins on page 21. It’s the ninth installment of our young pioneers section, 36 Under 36. Over the years, there have been 324 such millennials and Gen-Xers (and a few Gen-Zers, too) who are reinventing the Jewish community, pulling it, sometimes reluctantly, into a fast-morphing world where many of our expectations about faith, and our connections to it, are being upended. Our community (and indeed the faces that probably fill up most pages here each week) tends to be dominated by leaders significantly older. With our “36” section, we take a demographic pivot.
This year’s cohort, mirroring trends both in the Jewish community and in the wider society, expands the definition of “inclusion.” Abraham’s tent, then, is swelling. We honor not one, but three individuals with special needs who are leading the way to a more inclusive, empathetic community. We celebrate our first-ever 36er of transgender experience — a thinker, blogger and activist. And we laud the young leaders who are opening the door to those who previously felt marginalized in Jewish spaces, whether in the synagogue or the local community center.
But those are just a handful of three-dozen stories of inspiring young people who, if you’re not careful, will give you a jolt of pride and a sense of optimism about the Jewish community, and about the future.