What’s the newest of the new in Jewish youth culture? To find out, I visited a machane, a Jewish summer camp, which congregated Europeans under the age of eighteen in a remote village in the Alps. Hoping to scout future Jewish ideas, themes, and memes, I had my eyes and ears open for interesting fashions, cool music, new media, games, slang, and food.
My quest was triggered by a slew of innovations brought about by the current generation. Deviators have exchanged their traditional tallitot (prayer shawls) for colorful ones with lilies and rainbows. Others have produced trip hop versions of Jewish songs, “Matzah raps,” and uploaded parodies of Biblical stories onto youtube.
So I was very intrigued with what I saw at the Alpine machane: Thirty-five children and adolescents sported sweatpants and blue fruit of the loom T-shirts with a Star of David and a sketch of a bear. They practiced guitar, sang Jewish songs and rehearsed the Birkat Hamazon (after-meal prayer). Group discussions revolved around Israel and media coverage of Jewish themes. In their free time, the campers played ping pong. They also threw darts at balloons tacked to a bulletin board and competed at speed-eating bowls of spaghetti with nothing but a spoon. Volunteering mothers baked challah for Shabbat. Some girls gave each other piggy-back rides, and slid down the banisters when the madrichim (counselors) were not looking.
Far and wide, no body art, no media apps, and no flash mob performances.
What to make of the spirited traditionalism of these adolescents? To conclude that they lack innovative energy would be misleading. My hunch, in fact, is that the opposite is true. These young were reversing their parents’ innovations and fostering traditional activities with truly rebellious vigor.
Naomi Lubrich, Media