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What Synagogues and Startups Can Teach Each Other


(And How These Insights Apply to For-Profit and Non-Profit Legacy and Startup Organizations)


Imagine driving a car that has brakes but no gas or gas but no brakes. With brakes only, you’ll remain stuck in place. With only a gas pedal, you’ll be in a state of perpetual forward motion and never realize where you’ve been. Brake and gas make it possible for drivers to slow down, speed up, or come to a full stop. They’re able to adjust their destinations with their surrounding conditions. While I’m focusing on synagogues in this article, the following insights generally apply to legacy and startups in other faith-based organizations, and the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. They’re also relevant for colleges, universities, and other institutions that are bound by traditions about “how things are done” and led by an elite. If you’re not a member of the clergy, please substitute your company or organization for “synagogue.”

The media frequently portray synagogues as cars with only brakes, and startups as companies with only gas pedals. True enough, rabbis favor braking over accelerating and entrepreneurs accelerate more and brake less. But the stereotype of rabbis always slamming on the brakes and entrepreneurs as putting the “pedal to the metal” distorts this truth: rabbis and entrepreneurs know that they’d be dead with the gas and the brakes.



 Marathon religious services (better known as Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur) are about one month away. I already hear laypeople complaining that synagogues don’t innovate and I imagine rabbis defending the status quo. That’s why I’m offering a “third way” perspective for rabbis and lay leaders. This third way acknowledges that synagogues must become more entrepreneurial and maintain an authentically Jewish spiritual identity.

Limitations of comparisons with entrepreneurial startups. Entrepreneurs have a “pro-innovation bias.” A “pro-innovation bias” means that adopting innovations is considered positive and desirable while rejecting it makes you a “Neanderthal.” This bias also makes innovation champions unable to see and anticipate the potential failures of an innovation. Additionally, a pro-innovation bias makes the next entrepreneur who wants to bring a similar product to market swear that this time, it won’t fail! Entrepreneurs and early adopters of innovations can only see the comparative benefits of the new product but not their relative disadvantages.

 Limitations of synagogues. Regardless of rabbinic and post-rabbinic education, rabbis are trained in evolution, adaptation, and transmission. Although the Jewish tradition has never been static, their challenge is to pass on a living legacy; “living,” means that it must resonate with contemporary Jews, and “legacy,” that it must also embody essential Jewish beliefs, values, and practices. Even if rabbis have a high tolerance for experimentation, congregational cultures generally value incremental change over disruption. With rabbis who are more past-oriented leading congregations whose cultures are risk-averse, injecting entrepreneurial thinking and sustainable innovations in congregations is a significant challenge. 

Using the past to arrive at the future: gas and brakes. When synagogues succeed in maintaining a past-oriented and future-oriented outlook, they’ll hit the sweet spot of engagement. And that’s achievable! Rosh ha-Shanah teaches us that making a binary assessment of “either/or” (synagogues are past-oriented, startups are future-oriented) is unnecessary. And isn’t richer to cultivate a “both/and” worldview? With its many rituals that emphasize self-reflection, Rosh ha-Shanah invites us to use the past to become today’s energy that drives us into an even more engaging future. Ideally, we do that personally and as a community. 

 There are few places left that ask questions like, “Just because we can innovate, should we?” “What do we gain and what do we lose by trying something new?” We need places that put the spiritual brakes on the assumption that “new” always means “improved.” At the same time, synagogues need to accelerate their response to the dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and indifference that people feel about them.





What’s in Your Book?

Reflections on Writing Connecting Generations

Everyone writes a book in multiple media, not only published authors. Our thoughts form subconscious ideas; our feelings become keystrokes or letters, and our actions are our “published” blend of ideas and emotions. My new book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide, was published about three months ago. Twenty-plus book interviews later (see below for links to engaging interviews), here are some reflections on writing that apply to those who want to deepen appreciation for the many gifts that we receive from family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers in undertaking any significant endeavor.

Hayim Herring-Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial DivideTrust researching, writing, and publishing a book is collaborative work at its best.

A publisher, editors, marketing professionals, and more invest their trust in an author once they approve a book proposal. Roman & Littlefield (R & L) has published three of my books (one of them was initially an Alban Institute publication). With each successive release, I’m more appreciative of their efforts. The publishing industry has undergone a tremendous upheaval, but sometimes authors (mea culpa) don’t always remember that during our writing. That’s why I want to thank Oliver Gadsby, Linda Ganster, Susan Staszak-Silva, Deborah Hudson, Garrett Bond, Veronica Dove, Lisa Whittington, and Carla Quental, all exceptional professionals at R & L, for their robust support. Writing Connecting Generations has made me appreciate that few of our tasks are solitary. Some may require solitude, but we’re far from solo actors.

Generosity The subject experts and Boomers and Millennials whom I formally interviewed, and the many individuals from other generations who patiently listened while I described my progress on Connecting Generations, entrusted their stories and insights to me. Stories and ideas are precious personal possessions, but when shared become generous gifts. I formally interviewed or requested help from about 45 individuals, and approximately 40 responded positively. Even more humbling, about two-thirds of them were strangers or barely acquaintances. Greed gets more attention in the headlines, but generosity is still available in abundant supply. Connecting Generations has motivated me to think about how to be more generous with others.

Optimism – If we’re the ones who constructed intergenerational barriers, we also have the power to break them down. I repeatedly heard that there is an eagerness to reopen the channels of wisdom and experience across generations and enable them to flow in both directions. I didn’t hear much nostalgia for a hierarchical past in which only elders were entitled to transmit wisdom down to the next generation, but a desire to create reciprocal pathways so that young and old can replenish one another with their unique gifts. When you listen to people patiently, and they open themselves up, you’re likely to find optimism.

Relationships (and not just “connections”) – If you’re fortunate to find publicists who make you feel like you’re their only client – and these are the publicists who have a full client roster – you learn anew that connections are valuable if they are or become relationships. A relationship is reciprocal. It’s defined by people who celebrate each other’s successes and take turns at instinctively stepping up when the other needs an extra dose of support. Wendy Khabie (Khabie Communications) and Leslie Rossman and Emily Miles Terry (Open Book Publicity) make relationships look easy because they genuinely enjoy connecting authors and TV, print, digital, and radio journalists and hosts. Writing Connecting Generations has reinforced the value of focusing exclusively on each relationship in the moment.

Inspiration – Much of what passes for “news” today is more like toxic waste, and if we ingest too much, we risk our minds and spirits becoming landfills. (There are definite exceptions, and that’s why I support quality journalism with subscriptions to several newspapers and magazines.) To counteract this toxicity, I spend more time with provocative, inspiring books. The hosts who interviewed me (primarily but not exclusively) on NPR-affiliated radio shows are readers and thinkers. They have lists of books and podcasts with authors on their websites. If you’re looking for a shortcut to inspiring reads, start with radio or television shows that host authors. Writing Connecting Generations has reminded me that I’m responsible for seeking and finding inspiration.

Growth – My recent publications have focused on leadership, foresight, entrepreneurship, engagement, and social networks in faith-based nonprofits. I’ve explored how professional and nonprofit leaders can navigate the pull of innovation and autonomy, and the tug of inherited tradition and community. While the topics are of potential interest for leaders in most settings, my audience has generally been those who lead faith-based nonprofits. The premise of Connecting Generations is universal: living with higher purpose by having significant people in our lives who are older and younger than us. Learning to write in a new voice was incredibly challenging and exciting. I had to confront my fear of possible failure if I wanted to try on a radically new style. Okay, I haven’t yet received calls from The Sundance Institute (see above, “Optimism”). But I’m continuing to expand my network of thought leaders and my repertoire of ideas and skills. Is there another book lurking beneath this post? William Carlos Willian said, “I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” I’ve modified this statement to read, “Writing is my therapy, and God knows that I’m a work in progress!”

Trust, generosity, optimism, relationships, inspiration, and growth – these experiences transcend any single endeavor. By paying more attention to the people in our lives, we’ll gain a greater appreciation for the value of our existing relationships and motivation to deepen and broaden our connections with others.


Interview Highlights on Connecting Generations: 

Jim Blasingame, Small Business Radio Network;

Fred Coon, Work Place Strategies Show

KYMN Radio in Northfield, MN with Teri Knight

KPCW Radio in Park City, UT with Lynn Ware Peek and Tim Henney

WKRF Radio in Baton Rouge, LA with Jim Engster

WCCO TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul, with Heather Brown and Jason Derusha

KARE11 TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul, with Pat Evans

Rewire Magazine, interviewed by Katie Moritz




Swipe Left, Swipe Right: An Intergenerational Perspective on Relationships


Swipe left, swipe right – these commands for dating apps symbolize vast generational changes in dating, marriage, and other intimate relationships. While I wrote about relationships in my recently published book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide, there were some topics that I couldn’t include because of space limitations. In this post, I’ll compare changes in dating, marriage, and relationships between now and only several decades ago*.


We’ve gone from singing “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” (lyrics from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof) to typing web addresses like Match.com, OK Cupid, Tinder, and Bumble (where “women make the first move”. That’s because, “As recently as 2009, researchers showed that most matches occurred through friends, family or happy accident. But by 2017… surveys found that online meeting was nearing the 50 percent mark” while only about 20% of couples met through friends.


Until relatively recently, interfaith and interracial marriage was taboo. Today, political differences can doom a relationship.


Marriage is still popular among those younger, but the median age today for a first marriage for men and women set an all-time high: 28 years for women, 30 years for men. Compare that with the time when Boomers started to marry: “In 1968, the typical American woman first married at age 21 and the typical American man first wed at 23”.


For Millennials and even GenXers, the most common religion is no religion at all”. That explains why wedding bells and church bells are not intertwined as they once were. For example, in 2009, over 40% of weddings were held in a house of worship. In 2017, only about 25% of weddings were. Marriage is a privatized, secular event and not a religious milestone followed by joining a faith-based community.


On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court struck down a state’s right to ban same-sex marriage. While support for same-sex marriage had been growing, the pace at which it has become accepted is amazing. In a Gallup Survey from 2018, 67% of Americans reported that they “think that same-sex marriage should be legally valid”.


These differences in dating, marriage, and other intimate relationships are windows into changed values and culture. Generations tend to stereotype each other and the subconscious images that we have of our closest relationships are deeply ingrained. The value of highlighting contrasts between dating and marriage is that they can help to decrease misunderstanding and increase empathy and communication across generations.


* For additional book-related posts on the impact of social media on the self and politics through an intergenerational lens visit my blog, http://hayimherring.com/blog/.




Will Age be the Most Decisive Factor in the 2020 Presidential Election? Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, and Boomer Viewpoints



The first Democratic presidential debates are on June 26 and 27 (with ten per night, it’s more like an exhibit), and President Trump launches his reelection bid on June 18. I’m confident in one prediction about the 2020 presidential race: predictions made now will likely be wrong. That was true of the 2016 presidential election, the 2018 midterm elections, and will be even more true for the 2020 presidential elections. Why? A new dynamic among voters and candidates has exponentially increased uncertainty. There are five generations of eligible voters and representatives of four generational cohorts who aspire to be president.


Percentages of Potential Eligible Voters by Generation

Let’s start with the approximate percentages of eligible voters by generations:

  • 10% – Gen Z (ages 7 to 22)
  • 25% – Millennials (ages 23 to 38)
  • 25% – Gen X (ages 39 to 55)
  • 30% – Boomers (ages 56 to 73)
  • 10% – Silent/greatest generations (ages 74+)

Remember, these are percentages of eligible voters. What do we know about likely voter turnout? Older people vote in greater numbers. For example, in 2016 Boomers and those older constituted 43% of eligible voters but cast 49% of the votes (Pew Research Center). But in the 2018 midterm elections, younger voters (Gen Zers, Millennials, and Gen Xers – 51%) edged out older voters. To summarize:

From a generational perspective, Gen Xers may be the “swing vote” who determine election results. But, analyzing a candidate’s electability only based on generational demographics is risky. Other factors including race, ethnicity, gender, the weather on election day, wait times for voting, accessibility and hours of polling stations make accurate predictions nearly impossible at this stage.



The Candidates

It’s too soon to know if Donald Trump, a Boomer, will be the only Republican contender. But unless someone over age 85 declares interest in running as a Republican, my observations apply to candidates of both parties. Of the twenty Democrats who will be in the first presidential “debates,” the 7 Gen Xers and10 Boomers are bookended by 2 Millennials and 2 Silent Generation members. Looking at a visual representation of candidates, you can see an ascension of younger Democrats and attrition of older ones. But:

  • Age and generation aren’t always accurate barometers for assuming how “conservative” or “progressive” candidates are. Some examples:
    • Is Joe Biden’s recent indecision about federal funding for abortions an expression of a personal religious dilemma, or a political calculation to capture more conservative Democratic votes?
    • Another issue that isn’t generation-specific is climate change. Younger and older Democratic contenders have made climate change centerpieces of their campaigns. (It isn’t surprising most Boomer candidates emphasize climate change. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, a time of Boomer environmental activism.)

Generational differences among eligible voters and candidates will be more pronounced than in any prior election, but it’s unclear if age will be the most decisive factor.


Voter Values and Concerns

Among voters, some issues more clearly reflect generational differences. Boomers had a level playing field, but they scorched it for future generations and left them holding an ecological, political, and economic mess. Many Boomers could count on having only one or two jobs for life, a defined benefit pension plan, affordable health care for them and their families, and social security. A home, a car, marriage, children, – many Boomers climbed a vertical ladder leading to the “American dream.” While minorities were often prevented from getting their feet on the first rung of this ladder, a large swath of the Boomer population could realize these achievements with a high school degree. A college degree put Boomers on an even faster track to success.

Contrast the expectations of Boomers with the realities of Millennials who:

  • are burdened with student debt
  • have job insecurity because artificial intelligence and machine learning are making employees increasingly less relevant
  • experience the constant pressure of reinventing themselves in a disruptive workplace that has no end in sight
  • must weigh whether marriage and children are feasible and desirable
  • doubt if they will be able to afford a home.

These realities explain why younger voters tend to favor greater government involvement. It’s their only hope for countering the more devastating effects of unchecked market-driven capitalism. These hard facts also explain their skepticism about entrusting their future to Boomers. They’ll be spending much more time in the future than Boomers, the first generation to leave the world in a worse state for those who are younger.


No Bet Yet

If you have time to waste, money to burn, or enjoy the premature prognostications of political pundits, you can start to forecast which candidates are likely to win their respective parties’ approval. (Before you do, here’s another potential wildcard: will candidates who don’t receive their respective party nominations run as independents?) In the meantime, I’m going to follow the impact of generational values and interests on the electoral landscape.  Stay tuned!






The Hidden Costs of Life Online*

“There’ll be the breaking of the ancient
Western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There’ll be phantoms
There’ll be fires on the road…”

(From the lyrics to The Future, Leonard Cohen, Columbia Records 1992)

If you’re using social media and digital services, you’re also being used and abused by them. We’ve cut deals with Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and our favorite online retailers but they’ve taken a disproportionate piece of ourselves. I don’t read their intentionally incomprehensible “terms of service” anymore – do you? They’re written to obstruct my understanding of what I’ve signed on for, and the few existing legal protections to safeguard my privacy are meaningless. I’m especially angry with Apple for buying into their phony concern for privacy at a premium. (I guess the statement, “There will always be a few bad apples” is true!) I’ve traded my trust for online convenience, but at what cost?

If you search for “how to protect your privacy online” you’ll find technical tips on better securing your personal data (of course, data protection firms want to track you, too, so you’ll probably have to click on the prompt “this site uses cookies” to access the information). It’s smart to follow expert advice, but those articles don’t explore some existential questions that I developed in Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide. We’re already “in bed” with these technologies and they’re embedding themselves more deeply and rapidly in us so it’s imperative to keep questioning what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained in this grand digital deal. I invite you to contribute comments and questions.

Three Uncertain Trade-offs

1) Privacy. Decreased privacy diminishes our autonomy and curiosity. Massive data breaches that expose personal information are traumatic, but there are deeper implications. Corporations monitor our clicks and voice-activated commands without our awareness and sometimes without our consent. We’re no longer consumers who purchase services but commodities of corporations. These corporations harvest personal data to manipulate behavior for their benefit. Sure, it’s convenient to have an algorithm suggest a book or movie title based on prior preferences, but what happens to our autonomy and curiosity over time? Do we really need to stay online so long or robotically purchase a “recommended” item?

When companies take my data, they’re also stealing my time and curiosity about ideas that don’t fit my profile. When I’m curious, I meander (read: I decide if I want to spend my time and money and how I make those choices). I’m an adult and I’ve opened my eyes to these trade-offs. But what will happen to children whose digital profiles are created with their first click or voice prompt? Are parents, grandparents, educators, and elders prepared to teach them to navigate corporate traps so that they can develop their unique identities?

2) Social in-app-titude™ or making friends. We’re more nimble with our thumbs but more clumsy with our relationships. I love being able to see family and friends who don’t live nearby on FaceTime, but am I becoming lazy about spending enough face-to-face time with others? A five-minute meeting with a colleague down the hall can prevent a misunderstanding from unsynchronized text messages that lack thought and intended emotion. Emojis help to convey feeling, but only if members of different generational cohorts understand how to use and interpret them. “Yes” to more ways to connect, but the cost is greater social isolation and loneliness beginning at younger ages. And if social connectedness, the glue that gives us purpose, is the most accurate predictor of longevity and good health, the implications of having millions who are “the young and the lonely” are painful and staggering.

3) The Curated Self or the Anxious Self? A Millennial whom I interviewed for Connecting Generations.

1) realized that social media sites were increasing her insecurities. Initially, she enjoyed spending time on Facebook and Instagram but later began to feel that “…it almost hurts a little bit. You look on Facebook and you see, ‘Oh this person’s life is so perfect.’ You look on Instagram and see that they’re [her friends are] traveling and think, ‘Should I be traveling, should I do this when I’m in a relationship?’ And then sometimes I ask myself if I want to travel right now or do I think I want to because so many other people are. So for me [social media sites] make me second guess what is my life like. Am I making the most out of it? Do I have enough hobbies? It [a social media site] pulls on your insecurities wherever they are and it just highlights them” (pages 36-37). Real life isn’t curated and unless a person is guided or acquires a secure sense of self, he or she may be in a frenzied state of endless comparison with peers.

Not long ago, cracking of the genetic code was headline news. We still hear exciting stories about breakthrough genetic therapies, but computer code makes a bigger splash because its effects are immediate and consuming more aspects of our lives. (Did you know that Amazon has developed an algorithm to track warehouse workers’ productivity and fires them by a computer-generated notice if they don’t work quickly enough?  The genetic code is shorthand for our human biology. Computer codes translate our lives into ones and zeros and are making us struggle to hold on to our humanity. I’m not giving up the convenience and access to the world that I can find online, but I want to remain uneasy about being a too-willing partner in giving my “data” away and worse, having it stolen from me by third party. Remembering the trade-offs between convenience and trust will enable me to be more aware of the hidden costs of digital life.

*This is the first post in a series related to my new book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide. In this post, I highlight several significant trade-offs that we’ve made by embedding ourselves in 24/7 connected world.


Press Release – Connecting Generations by Hayim Herring


Contact: Garrett Bond | gbond@rowman.com | (301) 459-3366 Ext. 5616


Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide

Praise for Connecting Generations:

“Most people only have friends their own age. Hayim Herring is passionate about changing that. He shows the value of connections between people of all ages, shares examples of how he has established those connections in his own life, and gives solid advice on creating your own intergenerational community.”

— Claire Raines, Co-Author, Generations at Work


“Rabbi Herring’s book is a work of imaginative empathy and a hand of friendship extended across the generations.”

— Anya Kamenetz, author, The Art of Screen Time



Hayim Herring-Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide

Social isolation, loneliness, and suicide are conditions we often associate with the elderly. But in reality, these issues have sharply increased across younger generations. Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials, and post-Millennials all report a declining number of friends and an increasing number of health issues associated with loneliness. Even more concerning, it appears that the younger the generation, the greater the feelings of disconnection. Regardless of age, it feels as though we’re living through a period of ongoing disequilibrium because we’re not able to adapt quickly enough to the social and technological changes swirling around us. These powerful changes have not only isolated individuals from their own peers but have contributed to becoming an age-segregated society. And yet we need fulfilling relationships with people our own age and across the generations to lead lives that are rich in meaning and purpose. Even in those rare communities where young and old live near each other, they lack organic settings that encourage intergenerational relationships. In addition, it isn’t technology, but generational diversity that is our best tool for navigating the changes that affect so many aspects of our lives – whether it’s work, entertainment, education, or family dynamics. We can’t restore yesterday’s model of community, where only those who were older transmitted wisdom downward to the generation below. But we can relearn how much members of different generations have to offer each other and recreate intergenerational communities for the 21st century where young, old, and everyone in between is equally valued for their perspectives, and where each generation views itself as having a stake in the other’s success. Here, Hayim Herring focuses more deeply on how Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials perceive one another and looks underneath the generational labels that compound isolation. He offers ways we can prepare current and future generations for a world in which ongoing interactions with people from multiple generations become the norm, and re-experience how enriching intergenerational relationships are personally and communally.


Hayim Herring, PhD, is an author, presenter and nonprofit organizational futurist, with a specialty in faith-based communities. A former congregational rabbi and “C-suite” nonprofit executive, Hayim blends original research and real-world experience to inspire individuals and organizations to achieve their greatest impact. He has published over 60 scholarly and popular articles and studies about the intersection of technology, spirituality, and community. Recent publications include Leading Congregations and Nonprofit Organizations in a Connected World: Platforms, People, and Purpose (Alban Books 2016), co-authored with Dr. Terri Elton, and Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life (Alban Institute 2012). He is a proven organizational visionary and entrepreneur and works to “create today’s leaders for tomorrow’s organizations.”

Rowman & Littlefield

Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide

May 2019 • 978-1-5381-1216-8 • $34.00, Hardback



Bret Stephens: Millennial Bridge Burner or Builder?

Who made Millennials? Were they a mistaken creation of a mad scientist in a secret laboratory or were they the last day leftovers of a liquidation sale? If you listen to people like New York Times Op-ed columnist Bret Stephens, you might think that they’re a dangerous mutation of the human species. But I’m pretty sure that Boomers gave birth to Millennials and that educators, youth workers, and camp counselors helped to raise them. Any critique of Millennials must also include some scrutiny of their source – Baby Boomers.

Many Boomers lived the good life. Their post-high school options into adulthood were linear, stable, and more defined: marriage, children, a new home, the next promotion at work, and a continuous climb up the ladder of achievement until retirement. The “golden watch” or handsome set of luggage that many received at retirement symbolized that Boomers could reclaim their time and be adventurous. No more working on someone else’s clock at a job that held scant meaning.



True, some Boomers started out as protesters against the establishment but most morphed into a dominant hierarchy. In pursuit of success, we also left Millennials with severely threatening climate change, problematic food sourcing issues, and a set of expectations that were ill-suited for a disruptive world. We spent our children’s future during decades of an unusually stable time.

Will more Millennials purchase homes? Maybe, or perhaps they’ll be paying off exorbitant college debt instead. A job for life? How can Millennials know what they want to do for even a decade when the job that they have three years from now doesn’t yet exist? An affordable company health care plan, a defined benefit pension plan, and a decent monthly Social Security payment – these Boomer perks have been replaced by financial, food, and job insecurity for many Millennials.

Stephens does have a point in the excess of grievance that some Millennials express. And on some campuses, academic freedom has been hijacked by a collaboration of students, faculty, and administration who are self-anointed thought police. But how many Millennials have served in the military after 9/11, taught in Teach for America, and developed digital tools for constructive and creative purposes? If Boomers can create new off-ramps from paid full-time work, why can’t Millennials create new pathways into adulthood that fit who they are instead of trying to remake them in a Boomer image?

In fact, as a Gen Xer, Stephens, and open-minded Boomers, can be generational bridge builders instead of bridge burners. Gen Xers, unfairly labeled and often overlooked, can recall a less digitally immersive time and they’re also digitally savvy. They are increasingly in positions of influence and can open more mutual empathy between Boomers and Millennials. We can have constructive conversations about the life experiences that informed who we are, and the ongoing transformations that we’re experiencing in different ways.

Honest conversation, more curiosity, and less judgment between Boomers and Millennials are possible. Arming ourselves with these attributes instead of reflexive defensiveness is a much healthier way to bridge differences across all generations.



An Error in Judgment is Not An Apology


And the NYTimes’s Second Attempt is Lacking

Admitting an error in judgment isn’t the same as apologizing for it. I thought that the New York Times would know the difference between the two, but can it distinguish between an “error in judgment” and a simple “we are sorry?” The issue involves an anti-Semitic political cartoon with caricatures of President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that appeared in its Thursday International print edition (the cartoon was later deleted).


On Saturday, the New York Times opinion Twitter page issued the following retraction:


If you search for how many other media outlets characterized the Time’s retraction, you’ll find that initial search results display headlines like, “New York Times apologizes….” The only problem is that there is no apology. Rather, as you’ve read in the retraction, the words “error in judgment,” “offensive,” and “anti-Semitic tropes” appear. Those statements are accurate but are self-referential. In other words, the Times is apologizing to its readers for a mistaken editorial judgment that reflects poorly on itself. A storied publication like the New York Times aspires to the highest standards of professional journalism and when it stumbles badly it’s embarrassed for its bruised reputation. That’s a kind way of saying that the New York Times displayed empathy for its own good reputation and not for the admittedly anti-Jewish propaganda that it disseminated and perpetuated. I did not conduct an exhaustive online search but to the credit of The Times of Israel, it notes that “the paper did not explicitly apologize for carrying the cartoon.”


Here’s how simply an admission of an “error in judgment” could and should have been turned into an immediate apology. “We apologize for an anti-Semitic (words in bold are mine) political cartoon in the international print edition of the New York Times…” and the rest of its belated retraction could have stood. This slight modification would have helped to restore not only the Time’s desired credibility as a trusted journalistic source but its sincerity to remain so. By leading with the words, “We apologize,” the Times would have shown empathy toward those who were horrified by the cartoon. That means Jews who were deeply offended by a prestigious publication giving its imprimatur to anti-Semitic tropes, and any person who is against hatred, bigotry, and all kinds of fears of “the other.”


Also, note that this cartoon appeared in the Times International Edition. As a reader of the International Edition, the Times has given me a broader understanding of significant positive and negative worldwide trends, including global warming, political hotspots, oppressed people who otherwise would be anonymous, and anti-Semitism’s global rise. There have been significant increases in anti-Semitic vandalism, verbal harassment, and physical assault in Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and The Americas. For example, Great Britain’s Labor Party, until recently a warm home to the majority of British Jews, has instead become an incubator and enabler of anti-Semites. In France, Alain Finkielkraut, a leading French intellectual who is Jewish recently said that he “can no longer show my face on the street” (as reported by the Jewish Telegrapic Agency on April 25, 2019)


This New York Times cartoon controversy coincided with a tragic attack in another synagogue about 25 miles north of San Diego on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath and the last day of Passover. The attacker murdered a 60-year-old woman and wounded three others. On the last day of Passover, as with many other Jewish holy days, Jews recite a memorial service called Yizkor, during which congregants remember loved ones who have died. Future Yizkor services will add the name of another person who was murdered in a synagogue during prayer.


While Saturday’s synagogue investigation is ongoing, the gunman allegedly claims to have been inspired by the massacre of 50 Muslims who were gunned down during prayer in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand about six weeks ago. That’s why the New York Times must do far better than admit to a professional “error in judgment.” It owes an apology to all who believe that people are entitled equally to practice their religion, or to practice no religion, without fear of being murdered by people who hold opposite beliefs. Hatred may initially focus on one group, but it metastasizes to include other groups at accelerating rates because of social media. So memo to The New York Times: consider that your “error in judgment” may contribute to the next fanatical fatality and apologize for the cartoon now.


Update: The NYTimes’s second attempt (see @nytopinion) is overdue but still incomplete. They apologize for dropping their journalistic standards, but not to Jewish and non-Jewish readers who oppose bigoted journalism. Empathy for their audience, remorse for fueling hatred that contributes to fatalities, would be a sincere apology.


How Opposites Can Still Attract


If the conventional wisdom that “opposite attracts” is true, why do people who hold different views today often become oppositional? Instead of becoming closer, they allow opposing viewpoints to push one another away. The ability to imagine that there can be more than one perspective in approaching issues has become threatening instead of enlightening.

The word “opposite” is always relational – someone or something is opposite another. For example, “opposite” can refer to a relationship between two objects. Instead of being perpendicular to one another, they can be placed opposite one another. In that case, “opposite” defines a spatial relationship.

When applied to people, the word “opposite” also means that two people or different groups are in a relationship with one another. The question is how they choose to define that relationship. Does “opposite” turn to oppositional, where the two parties deploy protect, defend, and personal attack tactics? Or, do they maintain their points of view, try to see the other person’s perspective, and engage in open dialogue? *

In this second scenario, the goal of engagement is not to change the other’s viewpoint, although that might happen. It’s simply to relearn the beauty of a good intellectual give-and-take and clarify ideas, as did two Supreme Court Justices, the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the late conservative Antonin Scalia. Their opinions couldn’t be more opposite, but their mutual respect for their exceptionally principled arguments attracted them intellectually. They recognized that each made the other better not despite their opposite judicial philosophies but because of them. Justice Scalia remained a conservative, and Justice Ginsburg is a liberal, but their being on opposite sides of issues made a collegial relationship blossom into a model friendship.

Passover and Easter are almost here and it’s very likely that a family member or friend may be sitting opposite someone in both meanings of the word – two people with opposite views sitting across a table. Regardless of religious observance, families and friends gather for personal celebrations. In fact, I was recently interviewed by Katie Moritz in ReWire on the topic, “Words Matter: How To Address Offensive Language In Family Conversations.” Kudos to Katie for raising this question, and as my book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide is now available, I appreciated the opportunity to respond to her questions.

Here’s where I take inspiration from the Passover Seder. The Seder transforms a table into a platform for debate, discussion, and engagement about the collective and personal purpose of the Biblical Exodus narrative. In Hebrew, the “script” that’s traditionally used as a springboard for the telling of the story is called a Haggadah. The Hebrew root meaning of the word Haggadah or recitation (of the story) is “opposite” (נגד/neged). During the Seder, it’s a traditional commandment to engage all people, young and old, those who are more knowledgeable and those who are less knowledgeable, in debate. Opposites are meant to engage people in deeper reflection on the meaning of the story of liberation, how it shaped the Jewish people, and how it influences all people today. Intellectual and experiential arguments between opposites-a definite yes! Shallow, oppositional, personal attacks-not acceptable.

Whether you’re sitting at a Seder table, Easter dinner, or a gathering with friends and family, think about the choice you have when you’re with others who hold views opposite your own. I hope that you’ll choose the opportunity to reclaim the word “opposite” as a positive value that reconnects people with divergent viewpoints through engaging discussions. We’ll all be better for the effort.

* I’d like to credit Rabbi Michael Hattin of Pardes for this insight in his podcast on The Structure of the Pesach Seder.


Is a Sharing Parent a Caring Parent?

Recently, my parents have been sending me pictures from my childhood. (yes, that’s my kindergarten picture, and I miss my Brylcreem!) By coincidence, they sent this picture of me at about the same time that I was reading an article on “Sharenting.” “Sharenting” defines parents (and I would add grandparents) who frequently share photos and videos of their children and grandchildren online. Sounds harmless, doesn’t it? A sonogram, videos of an infant’s first sounds or a toddler’s initial wobbly steps, or pictures of that first time when a child decides that she or he is old enough to choose how to dress for pre-school (what fashionista decided that pink sweat pants, an orange shirt, and green tennis shoes don’t match anyway?).

But what happens when children learn from their friends or by searching for themselves online that they have an extensive digital footprint created by their parents or other family members without their knowledge and consent? Social media sites have minimum age requirements for children (enforceability is a separate issue), and schools that send pictures of children’s activities during the day first must get the permission of parents or guardians. As adults, we feel violated when a stranger hijacks our online identities, especially because it’s often done with malicious intent. It’s, therefore, time to ask, “Although most parents or grandparents have only loving intentions in sharing darling photos, are there limits to sharenting? At what point does cute and harmless potentially become disrespectful and damaging?”

Hayim Herring

The identity development of tweens (pre-teens) and teens can be a rocky unfolding journey. There’s nothing new about that, and I can remember arguments with my parents in junior high school about the length of my hair and the style of jeans. But those discussions were private, many of my childhood photos are still stored in a shoebox and not in the cloud, and I was the one who controlled my personal narrative with my friends during my teen years. I didn’t have to worry about pictures that my parents posted of me online without my consent or private comments that became public. But now, tweens and even those younger are discovering that they have a robust online existence being curated by parents, grandparents, and sometimes their schools.

I understand the urge of grandparents who want to proudly showcase their grandchildren. And for today’s parents who have been raised in a digital world, I can imagine their desires in wanting to share moments of their children’s lives online. I’m not making a judgment – there are many sides to this issue. But I do know that a perennial parental role is setting boundaries with children that change as they mature. We hope to guide our children to become caring, responsible, empathetic adults who are respectful of others. If parents and grandparents don’t set their own boundaries about what they share online about their children and grandchildren, what are we teaching them about how to set their own online limits?

We know enough already about the emotionally isolating effects of social media on young children. I now understand that we need to elevate the importance of a question that some psychologists are asking: is sharing always caring? Does putting content about your children or grandchildren online have the potential to shock their healthy childhood and adolescent development and create unanticipated emotional risks? We’ve permanently moved from the days of storing printed photos in a shoebox to sharing them on online sites like Dropbox. But until we start to better understand that sharing an innocent photo may not be so innocent after all, maybe we can adapt the carpenter’s maxim, “measure twice, cut once” to Sharenting: “click twice – and if you post, cut now.” After all, with discussion, dialogue, and discretion, we can always decide to post later.

(You can read more about these topics in my new book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide, available for pre-order now!)


©2019 Hayim Herring
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