Who are in the generations in your synagogue?

Arlene Holtz cautions that generational theory “has to be taken with a certain grain of salt. We’re talking about sociological theory here. This is a broad view of people.”

With that caveat, this is how she describes the four generations of contemporary American synagogue life.

The Silent Generation, 1928-1945.

“They were the ones who became very Americanized. They became bicultural; they were Jewish and American. In the 1950s and ’60s, they built the big synagogues we inherit today. They felt very comfortable and self-assured in terms of being American and being Jews.”

Baby Boomers, 1946-1964.

“This is the huge cohort that lived through the ’60s and the ’70s, that experienced all those assassinations ““ John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Bobby Kennedy. The boomers are the generation that moved from the city to the suburbs. The suburban synagogue became the central focus of their Jewish life.”

Generation X, 1965-1979.

“They’re a smaller generation than the Boomers. They married later and had children later, but are very interested in being good parents. There was an increase in the rate of intermarriages, particularly intermarriage that was non-conversionary. Among the Xers, there’s a decreasing institutional awareness. (This is kind of true of Millenials as well.) Institutional Jewish life is less relevant to them. There’s also a decline in denominational identity. They liked the more informal forms of Jewish expression.”

Millenials, 1981-2000.

“They’re digital natives and multitaskers. They know how to cooperate and work together. They’re the trophy kids. Where the Boomers couldn’t wait to get away from their parents, the Millenials like their parents. There’s lots of intermarriage. They’re very much at home with pluralism. Formal affiliation is unimportant to them. On the other hand, they’re interested in cultural and artistic expressions of Judaism. They see spirituality and worship apart from the synagogue.”