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A Big Idea Waiting for Action: Intergenerational Jewish Communities


Leil Leibovitz has a big idea that might get lost in his recent Tablet article, How Boomers Ruined American Judaism. He exaggerates the extent to which Boomers ruined American Judaism but offers Boomers and philanthropists a big idea in advocating for Jewish intergenerational communities.

Leibovitz writes, “If American Jewish life is ever to rebound, then, the effort to inject it with new meaning and new energy must be intergenerational. It’s not, as demographers and philanthropists and other muckety-mucks often believe, just the young who are adrift; it’s the old, too…”

The need for intergenerational Jewish community is urgent. I document the social isolation epidemic in my new book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide. We used to associate loneliness and a lack of friends with those who are older. Now, pre-teens and teens experience the pain of loneliness at higher rates than do people age fifty-five and up. Technology, the disruptive effects of innovation, and a general fear of engaging with those who hold views that are different from our own are primary contributors to this loneliness sickness. Faith-based communities that theoretically designed to engage members of all generations can reduce the social isolation epidemic by increasing intergenerational communities. To date, I haven’t been able to find alternative communities that are meant to connect people throughout the lifespan, and that’s why we should lead on this issue.

Generally, the Jewish community does not distinguish between the implications of being “multi-generational” and “intergenerational.” Multi-generational is a numeric fact stating the number of generations alive (that number is an unprecedented seven generations!). Today, there are seven generations, from the members of the Greatest Generation (think World War II) to Generation Alpha (born beginning in 2010). Intergenerational is a value, a conscious commitment to encourage people of different generations to move from being mere acquaintances to friends. There is no playbook for having large numbers of 100-year-olds and one-year-olds alive at one time. “Multi-generational” reinforces age-segregation in the Jewish community, while intergenerational suggests a creative policy shift. It means rethinking the Jewish community and its institutions so that we stop dividing generations into peer cohort activities, like adult learning, teen activities, and Jewish preschool. Sure, some activities should be age-segregated. But many more could be reinvented as intergenerational.

If we can shift from a multi-generational to an intergenerational community, that’s where the opportunity for the Jewish community begins. Do congregations have a standing Intergenerational Action Team that looks comprehensively at social justice activities? If they did, an auxiliary group, a youth group, and a social justice committee could learn about each other’s unique generational concerns and collaboratively create a compelling, innovative social justice initiative. A Jewish day school, afternoon program, or camp could reorganize around intergenerational learning. Then, looking through a Jewish values lens on the topic of leadership, teens, young adults, and those who are middle age and up could debate the questions, “How old is too old to be a presidential candidate?” and “How young is too young?”

Bringing young and old together in physical proximity doesn’t automatically create an intergenerational Jewish community. Leaders need a paradigm shift, moving away from labeling and segregating generations toward age-integration.  They could proudly chant, l’ dor va-dor -and write new music with the addition of the word va-dor five more times! Changing culture requires intensive retraining and practice. The good news is that “intergenerational” is an authentic Jewish value not open to debate, and existing funds for many multi-generational Jewish experiences could be used for intergenerational activities.

To the extent that Boomers want to clean up the damage of the American Jewish community that several generations made, we should be creating more intergenerational Jewish communities in partnership with other generations. For that significant insight, Leibovitz has this Boomer’s appreciation.



Rabbi Hayim Herring, Ph.D., is the author of Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide and Leading Congregations and Nonprofits in a Connected World, along with Dr. Terri Elton, and an expert on contemporary Jewish life.


How to be Grateful for Family Relationships Even When You Disagree


In our brittle political climate, relationships can break as easily as a Thanksgiving Turkey wishbone. Generational viewpoints can amplify misunderstandings. For example, Millennials who have deeply held views on climate change may clash with Boomers, who seek more moderate solutions. Our most elderly may understand why the prefix “trans” appears before the word “gender,” but may have difficulty accepting the use of a plural pronoun when referring to a transgender person. Relationships are precious, so here are a few tips to help us hold on to them while acknowledging divergent views:

  • “Opposite” does not have to turn into oppositional. Opposite means that two people in a relationship hold contradictory opinions. “Opposite” morphs into oppositional when two people deploy defend and attack tactics.
  • When differences surface, remember that you’re engaging with someone not to change his or her opinion but to relearn the beauty of a good intellectual give-and-take and clarify your ideas. That’s what two very close friends and Supreme Court colleagues, the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the late Antonin Scalia did. They recognized that each made the other better because of their opposite judicial philosophies.
  • Stretch yourself further and identify one aspect of the opposite position that you believe has merit and explain why you believe it does to the other person.
  • Assume the person with opposite views has good intentions. Extend the “benefit of the doubt” instead of the “detriment of the doubt” that has become our immediate reflex. Have more curiosity and less judgment. When you learn why a person holds particular views, you’ll understand the influences that have shaped his or her opinions even if you don’t agree with them.

GratefulClose relationships are irreplaceable. We can regain our appreciation for difference without compromising our values, and that’s something for which to be very grateful this Thanksgiving.

To learn more about enriching generational relationships, please read my new book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide.


Living Mindfully or Mindlessly?


Mindfulness is:

“The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” –Jon Kabat-Zinn


“The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary.


One of the ways that I identify if a trend has gone mainstream is to search the Harvard Business Review (HBR is my “go to” magazine, but any respectable business periodical or blog will do). Why? If you can monetize an idea, there’s a reasonable chance that it’s mainstream. Using that simple criterion, my search for “mindfulness” on HBR yielded 285 results. And here’s more proof: “Self-care apps topped Apple’s 2018 trends list, as consumers spent $32 million on mindfulness apps like Calm, Headspace and 10% Happier.”  Individuals can enroll in university-level mindfulness classes or download an app, and a generation of kids in many public schools, after-school programs, and camps, are learning to be mindful. Practicing mindfulness is a booming, growing industry!


What is at the heart of this surge in mindful living? Technology enables us to do more and more by thinking less and less. For example, every time that you click on Amazon’s “suggestion” for your next book based on your browsing history, you diminish your ability to choose for yourself. When you finish an episode of your favorite show on Netflix and click on “next episode in 5 seconds (guilty as charged!),” you decrease awareness of choosing other options for spending your precious time. Mindfulness enthusiasts recognize that technology creates the illusion of choosing mindfully when, in reality, algorithms have contributed to making us choose mindlessly. The price that we pay for 24/7 connectivity is a disconnection from self-aware choices, and that’s a steep cost.


Committing to reducing our use of technology is the first step toward regaining greater self-awareness. For example, try turning off your smartphone (and watch) at mealtime or for 30 minutes each morning and afternoon. Once you become accustomed to being offline, do you enjoy dinner more with a 30-minute technology time out? Are you more productive during your 30-minute block of time that you’re offline then when you’re connected?


I’ve put these practices into place and, to gain the full benefit of my choice, I’ve also adjusted my attitude. When I power down for a block of time, I no longer think of what I’m losing, but what I’m gaining by being offline. For me, those benefits include a richer conversation with a family member or friend, higher concentration on a writing or consulting project, and spiritually reconnecting with myself. To be more mindful when I’m online, I browse other categories of literature than Amazon’s “suggested titles.” By doing so, I expand my curiosity and openness to new ideas and experiences. I’m also working on strategies that keep me from easy distractions like checking the news, unsubscribing to irrelevant listservs, and using my “block caller” function to minimize annoying marketers.

My colleague, Rabbi Jeffrey Schein, wrote in his recently published book, Text Me: Ancient Jewish Wisdom Meets Contemporary Technology (page 14), “Awash as we are in digital technologies, we…desperately need all the fences (that is, perspectives)…we can find as we try to understand the many ways that technology has reshaped our human and Jewish identities.” Mindfulness, in its secular and religious forms, provide that missing perspective. As the holidays approach and the year 2020 is on the near horizon, I’m committing to becoming more mindful beginning today. I’ve just started another 10-day mindfulness meditation course on my favorite app, InsightTimer! I know that I’ll have a “meeting of the minds” with many people who are also reclaiming mindful living.




You’re Empowered to Make the World More Caring

Thank you to the many people who read my post describing how a stranger at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport nearly assaulted me. Your empathetic reactions were overwhelming.

I didn’t expect bystanders to put themselves in physical danger and challenge the angry individual who threatened me. But they might have contacted airport security or called a nearby Delta agent to diffuse the situation. After the incident, I expected someone to say, “That must have been an awful experience. I’m sorry that it happened.” Instead, there was stone silence. I was alone in a crowd.



Many people shared their recent personal experiences of being threatened or reading stories where bystanders stood by a harrowing event. One reader wrote, “Today I read that a young man lost his life crossing the street I live on and he laid there dead for 25 minutes before the authorities were called, and people just drove around him and didn’t help him or stop and get out. I really don’t understand what this world is coming to. People are so oblivious and uncaring these days.”

Compared with the stories that others shared with me and the injustices that people of color and women who are verbally and physically abused experience publicly, my incident was harmless. Still, the reaction of so many online readers left me with a question:

If we are empowered to make the world more caring, what is stopping us?

I’ve been thinking about this question considerably since my aunt, Selma Weinberg, of blessed memory, passed away about a week ago. I spoke with my cousins separately in preparation for her eulogy. Still, they responded as one about my aunt’s beautiful trait of seeking opportunities to speak a kind word to a stranger: a clerk in a store, a person next to her while waiting on line, a caregiver – every human being was worthy of kind attention. Some people seek opportunities to criticize, but my aunt searched for chances to compliment.

After my airport incident, I looked at the photo that my editor selected for my new book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide. When I was verbally threatened, I felt as if the people in the book cover photo had walked off the page and onto the line around me. Everyone looked down and away into their devices, instead of looking up and making eye contact with me. When there’s no eye contact, there’s no empathy. Many of us suffer from social in-app-titude™. We’re agile with our thumbs but clumsy in offering gestures of kindness because we use our screens as shields from human contact.

Why are we afraid to risk breaking our self-imposed silence when we’re in situations that should call forth basic decency? Have we forgotten so quickly how a little bit of kindness makes the world in which we live more human? I don’t believe that we have, but we will if we refuse to acknowledge our ability to shape the kind of world that we desire to have. It doesn’t take an act of Congress to be kind, and we can’t wait for someone else to take the lead anymore. To my fellow risk-takers, Will you step up your game? To those who want to be proactive and offer some caring, practice with an acquaintance instead of a total stranger. Remember, we live in a world that we deserve. And we deserve much better.


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



©2019 Hayim Herring
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