Writing your community’s story

By Stefanie Pervos Bregman

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I honestly never thought I’d have the opportunity to visit Rhode Island. But when the invitation came from the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island to speak to the community about my anthology Living Jewishly, a Snapshot of a Generation, I decided to make the trip—and I’m sure glad I did.

My first night in Providence, I met with a group of individuals representing the newly formed (401)j. It was so exciting to talk to a group of young Jews who were in the midst of envisioning programs and events to create the type of community they want to be a part of—writing the story of Jewish Rhode Island for the next generation.

That night, we talked about many things—from my work in Chicago, to the story behind the book, to what the board envisioned for their community including the idea to start this very blog!

As a Jewish communal professional myself, the topic of how to get young Jews like us involved in Jewish life seems to comes up everywhere I turn.

I think about this issue a lot—and have since I started working in the Jewish community in 2007.  Back in 2008, we started a blog for Jewish, or Jew-ish, 20- and 30-somethings living in Chicago called Oy!Chicago (www.oychicago.com). It’s a place where young Jews can read about topics that interest them, join the conversation themselves by sharing their stories and commenting, and learn about events going on in the community.

The idea for Living Jewishly developed from there—I decided to ask more of my peers to tell their Jewish stories from their own perspectives.

In mid-August of 2010, I sent out a call for stories:

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?

The result was a collection of 40-plus personal essays and memoirs published in August 2012 by Academic Studies Press. Through these essays, the book tackles issues including Jewish identity, JDate, connection to Israel, and what it means to be a young Jew in America today. I hope you’ll check out the book and that some of the stories will resonate with your personal experiences.

I also encourage you to think about writing your own Jewish story. I hope that you will see (401)j as a space to share your story, will find those connection points that interest you in your Jewish community, and will consider contributing and commenting on each other’s posts.

I want to leave you with the words that end the book: 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.

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