Monthly Archives: October 2008

The New Wandering Jew: Sukkot in Our Times

Think for a second: when was the last time you stayed in one city or geographic region for more than one year? Chances are that most of you, if you’re reading this, will have a hard time remembering. Our generation — the first digital generation — is often much more at ease with the concept of home being far away from our current residence, than home being our permanent residence. Due to the overwhelming prevelance of higher education, the draw of global hotspots for leisure and business, and the open frontiers that beg our exploration, we travel far and wide while all at the same time remain loosely connected to those we’ve known along the way.
No holiday reflects upon this new reality as much as Sukkot, as I argue in my latest article in Haaretz, Wandering Jews. It fascinates me that,

Thanks to near-ubiquitous digital access, even when we fly off to Thailand, we’re no more than a Skype call away. And if we find ourselves in Pittsburgh, online social networks enable us to connect more quickly with people we share interests with for a short period of time.
And yet these flash connections rarely are as close as those of yesteryear – leaving us with the challenge, as our society becomes defined by the “first digitals'” frequent choice of “sukkot” over permanent dwellings, of adapting our community institutions for highly mobile members.
Our communal institutions – from the State of Israel to our local federations and synagogues – were built for the static life, distinguishing between “locals,” who are dues-paying members, and “visitors,” a smaller group that temporarily accesses services.
But the relative numbers have flipped, leaving us wondering, as the digital age increases our wandering and the relative numbers of “locals” lessens and “visitors” increases, whom are our physically bound institutions meant to serve? What communal institutions are necessary in a world defined by nomadic wandering?

It will be our job, as the First Digitals, to see to it that our communal institutions answer the demands of life in the digital age, so that we can survive the wandering in the desert. And it should be noted that out of the two directions I noted at the end of my article as possible answers to this new reality — Ushpizin and Regalim — the idea of reviving the Pilgrimage was inspired by Jason Arenstein’s excellent piece in the new issue of PresenTense Magazine, coming online soon.


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