Home March 2014 A Slightly Offensive Slant

A Slightly Offensive Slant

Apparently the Orange County 20s and 30s appreciate a slightly offensive take on cultural Judaism. Moishe House (MoHo) – Costa Mesa and I have partnered up for several months to provide a different perspective on Judaism in Orange County. The event addresses common issues that we, as OC residents, struggle with in our assimilated lives. As advertised, “Coffee Talk with Rachel Schiff is a Brooklyn-style conversation about Judaism in OC and a national look on Jewish topics from a more cultural and urban perspective. This isn’t your Bubbie’s conversation!”
Ironically, the word “religious” can be a deterrent for people. For some, it reminds them of a community they cannot relate to; others find the concept of Torah and religion so far removed from their lives that they simply identify as “just Jewish.” Millennials are less inclined to place themselves in a category or a major sect of Judaism, even if they attend a synagogue regularly. Our perception of Judaism and community does not match the framework of our parents’ communities.
Often overwhelmed and pressed for time, Millennials are typically concerned with where to place their mental and physical energy. Where should we grow and develop? Where should we spend our limited amounts of time? On top of these concerns, we deal with where our religious and cultural issues fall in our daily grind. When do we prioritize our affiliations and practices? Many times, as Millennials, we discover much of what we value in conversations when we engage with others.  The discussion aids participants by setting out a portion of time that is both social and engaging.
The conversations are intended to challenge the participants to assess how they observe their Judaism. Many times people have expressed that a Jewish conversation is intimidating. This relaxed and even inappropriate slant allows the participants to come into a nonjudgmental space. Sitting on a sofa with coffee, tea and some unhealthy carbohydrates really does relax the slightly anxious and neurotic Jewish population. If that does not calm the nerves, the diction perpetuates a liberal environment where all ideas are welcome. There is no prior objective; no one is supposed to come into the event with a skill set or deep understanding of his or her personal beliefs and then suddenly expect to change. The event is simply a bold conversation, encouraging the members of the community to evaluate their own personal beliefs and share them. Many times I have found myself questioning my own practices after discussing topics with participants.
As an element of surprise, I do not share the topic until people get to MoHo. There is a level of fairness with this method. No one has the ability to research and become an authority prior to the discussion. In life, as Jews, we have to make assessments of how we will handle situations without having time to study up on topics. Why should this event be any different? Another beautiful gem about not sharing the topic is that people seem to attend due to sheer curiosity. Previous topics that have been discussed are: B’nai Mitzvot: Are they important?; Jewish Online Dating; Keeping a Kosher Home; Sexy Jewish Women; and Being Jewish on Christmas. MoHo and I welcome community members between the ages of 21 and 30 to join us in our monthly event. Typically, the events are held the last Monday of every month.

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