Monday, June 14, 2010


Why Judaism Sucks

jewish_teensby Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

(Illustrative photo – not of the people involved in this article)

A percentage of our youth are disaffected. Orthodox Jewish youth.  A subset of the generation that is drawn to the excitement of the world or turned off by a dry education system or parental and communal restrictions.  Or so I say.  But as my own teens remind me regularly, what do I know?

So I’ve asked and challenged them, tell me “Why does Judaism suck?”  Yes, a provocative question designed to get their interest and get a deep answer from them.

They’ve taken up my challenge.  A worldwide group of disaffected Jewish teenagers, girls and boys from orthodox homes, have responded.  Here it is, here’s why, in their own words, the Judaism of today doesn’t work for them.  From Ramat Beit Shemesh Israel, Passaic New Jersey, Jerusalem Israel, Crown Heights New York, here’s why Judaism sucks….

(These are their own words. Very minor edits for grammar and spelling to keep the reading easy.)

A: It’s not that Judaism sucks, it’s that people these days really corrupted it and teach it totally the wrong way.  So I think that that’s one of the main problems.  It’s the people, not the religion. The school systems need to be changed, and the way that it’s taught.

B: Maybe like the adults and teachers are hypocrites. They don’t keep what  they teach.  They teach to fear God which isn’t good. They should teach that we should love God and not fear him. They also focus too much on like external stuff these days, like how high your socks are and are not teaching the more important stuff like morals
and how to act and behave. They should focus more on being a good person then how high your socks are.  For example adults and teachers say you shouldn’t speak lashan hara, then go and talk to all the parents and teachers about you! People should just be real and true.

C: They say when you are young (a child) everything can influence you and they are right.  Their influence is what screws with you, confuses you, makes everything complicated.

D: Judaism doesn't provide enough answers. How do you expect a young child to go about his life with no answers just curiosity?

E: I think it sucks because it’s a shallow minded religion. Things that it says don’t work for our generation. Kids don’t want to hear how they can’t do anything enjoyable.

F: I think Judaism itself is fine. The basis of the true religion is
great. But rabbis and sages have made up all these extra rules to add here to the original rules which, because they are man made, might be spoiling the purity of the religion.

G: I don't think the religion sucks, I think that it's not being taught properly. There are people out there distorting it and taking things a little bit too far. I don't think that the extra rules the rabbi's added on a while ago spoils the purity, I think its more all the extra rules being added on NOW.  And while “E” is right about kids not wanting to hear about it now, but often it’s because they don't get what it's really about and don’t understand why they can't do the things they want to do.

H: Know ANYBODY who teaches it well? Can’t say I know any one or any rabbi who does.

I: In short I find even when you do all the right things it still seems to be a dark world, and basically that’s why I think it’s all (feces).

J: Judaism is awesome, it’s just the people who represent it nowadays are stuck in a steel box and are doing it all wrong. But Judaism in and of itself is beautiful. If it was taught in the right way people would be a lot more into it.

K: Judaism is creator, angles, spirits, mysticism, heaven,.... But it’s based on ancient culture.

L: What the rabbi's added in the times of the Gemara isn't bad at all, it's just as pure as the rest of the Torah. But people are adding on their own stuff and taking it too far now, which is wrong.


y said...

i suggest you balance this article with one about teens who love their traditions and why. my concern is that you erroneously paint a picture of a large number of youth. what are the real numbers? how do we measure it?
then, a great answer is for the teens who are positive to exchange with the ones who aren't.

Tidbits of Torah said...

May I ask how G knew E's response? Were they all together when your question was asked of them? Were they given the responses from all asked? Thanks.

sharona said...

I agree, many are mainly taught just what to do, but don't really understand or feel it inside. We need to know why to do it, so it's meaningful. Plus, we should be taught both reverence and love for G-d.
And people should be a good example so others keep the message.

Awe should be taught like this, for example, we see how precious our spouse is and are in awe of them, we don't want to hurt the relationships because there's consequences.
Love of G-d and Torah should be taught by showing the beauty and joy. Make Shabbos very special with zemiros and quiety time together. Inspire youth to pray from the heart and appreciate our blessings. And when we learn, G-d is speaking to us -

Encourage their questions, and search for information together in order to strengthen emunah

If parents and teachers are good examples of middos, wisdom and caring, and give youth what they need both emotionally and intellectually, then youth will internalize it and want to keep it with them

Akiva said...

Tidbits, they built a set of shared responses through their Facebook interactions.

Neshama said...

You know, there is an old saying:
"Out of the mouths of babes ..."
And Aish describes that as: A child's perspective is clear and pure, unclouded by "experience" and cynicism. If we allow ourselves, we can learn much from a child's wide-eyed view of life.

Those that are really attached to the ways of their faith, enacted by their parents, are truly happy and adjusted. However, those that are affected by cynicism, hypocritical behavior, et al., will come away with the above thoughts and feelings.

And another saying goes, "one can learn from everyone".

josh said...

y, the point of the article is to promote discussion, not present two sides.

My take on it is that traditional/standard Jewish education cannot handle the desensitization that kids have these days to visual stimulus. Kids watching tv and Hollywood movies, are so bombarded with an increasing amount of action and pinpointed marketing to satisfy their media desires, that standard teacher / classroom cannot even come close to this experience.

There are two ways to deal with the problem; rocket Jewish education into the 21st century with outstanding visual aids / video / interaction (lots of $$$) or wean kids off pop culture.

A friend of mine, rav melamed at a religious school system in Petach Tikva says they explicity do not allow kids in with tvs at home, and not so much because of the influence, but because they understand that a child exposed to such visual stimuli will simply not sit still in class or have the patience with a page of chumash or gmara. Of course, this starts with the parents. Kids see their parents watching tv, going to movies, giving a crap about 'professional' sports and other [essentially goyish] entertainment outlets, and they adopt this culture as well.

Frankly, Judaism has all the answers. I love being born to the Jewish nation.

Shiloh said...

From what I have seen is that the well adjusted kids come mostly from modern orthodox upbringing's along with what one might call settlers. I have found that many on both the ultra orthodox and secular seem more often ill-adjusted.

y said...

sharona:you should be a consultant for jewish education.
josh:my concern was that people will wrongly generalize from a few statements.

there's nothing like stories...hassidic and others to capture anyone's imagination.

i think the traditional methods of singing while learning, stories etc would serve us well.

Anonymous said...

1. Parents and teachers have to practice what they preach
2. It is essential that parents and teachers constantly have a happy deportment and show a joy for Torah and Mitzvos, or else why would their kids want that kind of life???
3. I think that education the kids receive should stress way more middos development, emunah and reasons why kids should buy into this life... As one of the Kids said above the importance of high the socks are id really a SURE Way to turn them off without first developing the love and showing the advantage of Judaism.

Rabbi Seinfeld said...

This is an important discussion. For those who have a loved one who is in the category of "disaffected" (whether youth or older), it can be a very challenging situation. It may be helpful to know that there are some resources out there that have been effective in showing such youth and young adults a different way of understanding Judaism than they were taught. For example, many have benefited from my book, The Art of Amazement (now out in a new non-profit edition), which shows the reader how the spirituality and connectiveness that they are looking for can be found in Judaism. Contact me privately if you need further information, my website is

Rabbi Seinfeld said...

Anonymous said...

It sucks because even if you live in the forest and read it on your own you quickly get diminished returns. In a year you can learn the basics, about providence, exile and the four/five kingdoms and some other stuff that is repeated over and over again. If you keep on learning or watching shiurim, you find that you know 70% of the stuff already, so that is boring. If you read Midrash or LIkutei Moharan or kabbalah, it's clear that either these people are schizophrenics or are alluding to things you have no clue what they are talking about. There is limited benefit to reading things you don't understand. Perhaps if you read enough you can make some connections but it's not an encouraging process. Plus the torah scares the crap out of people and makes them scared to work instead of studying torah and makes it difficult for them to function in the outside world. If you study Talmud you can get a headache and also miss what they are alluding to. Furthermore, there seems to be a severe lack of teachers that can explain anything beyond the basics. So many shiurim say nothing new after a while. It's not necessarily the teacher's faults, I have no idea how they are expected to understand these allusions either. Furthermore, people are either trapped between a wishy washy reform movement or more extreme movements and more than a handful of disreputable rabbis. In many places there is no modern orthodox synagogue. It would also be nice if there were more efforts reaching out to the poor (jewish and non-jewish) and less selling Torah books, which makes the religion look bad. I also think religious people would make more of an impression on non observant jews if they stopped wearing suits and were more humble and admitted they didn't know everything. The Chabad website and others say things like 613 mitzvot and the limbs and whatever and then you're like wow that's interesting, but after a while you realize they can't explain anything else in depth and you are hearing the same things over and over, which is discouraging and misleading. I hope someday there won't be a rift in Judaism and we could actually understand things that are interesting and suits will be banned instead of people who have a jewish dad and a non jewish mom being effectively banned, even if they're interested in the religion.

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