Generation Z Thinking - February 2, 2024

Generation Z Thinking

PRRI, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life, just published an interesting study on Generation Z titled, A Political and Cultural Glimpse Into America’s Future: Generation Z’s Views on Generational Change and the Challenges and Opportunities Ahead. The report focuses on both “Gen Z adults” (ages 18–25) and “Gen Z teens” (13–17) and discusses what sets them apart from older generations in terms of their political and cultural values, their faith in communities and political institutions, and their views on religion. Some key findings (most will not surprise you):


  • Gen Z adults identify as liberal more than older Americans. Gen Z teens, however, identify more as moderates.


  • Gen Z teens mirror their parents’ religious affiliation and are more likely than Gen Z adults to find religion important.


  • Most Gen Z Americans are more likely than older Americans to believe that generational change in political leadership is necessary to solve the country’s problems.


  • Gen Z adults are more likely than older generations to say that social media (52%) or video games (48%) are important for making meaningful connections.


  • Gen Z teens are more likely to find meaning in playing organized sports (58%) than Gen Z adults (42%).


  • Gen Z men and boys often find meaningful connections playing video games, while Gen Z women and girls are more likely to use social media for meaningful engagement.


  • Gen Z, along with their millennial counterparts, hold little trust in America’s political institutions.


You may recall in December I shared a New York Times/Siena poll that highlighted the generational gap of Americans over support for Israel (remember, this data is six weeks old and may be different today):


  • Americans over age 45 back Israel over the Palestinians by over 40 points. However, for people ages 18-29, they side with the Palestinians by a 19-point spread.


  • Americans over the age of 45 back Israel’s military campaign against Hamas by double-digits, but those under 30 want Israel to halt its military operation by a 45-point margin.


Ezra Klein wrote a very interesting editorial in The New York Times where he provides an excellent perspective on this divide. He believes there are three generations in terms of American sentiment toward Israel:


  • There are older Americans who knew Israel when it was young. They remember the impossibility and wonder of its creation. They remember the wars its neighbors launched to eradicate it and the seeming miracle of its survival and of all that it then built. This generation still feels Israel’s vulnerability. This is Joe Biden’s generation.


  • Then there’s what I think of as the straddle generation. This generation only ever knew Israel as the strongest military power in the region. An Israel that occupied Palestinian territories. But we also knew an Israel that sought peace and coexistence. We knew the Israel of Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak. We saw the collapse of the 2000 Camp David summit was met by the second intifada, by years of suicide bombers rather than years of counteroffers. We also watched Israel build settlements across the West Bank. Polling shows, predictably, that views of Israel are more mixed.


  • Then there are younger Americans (think Gen Z). They know only Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel. He has, after all, been prime minister almost continuously since 2009. They know an Israel that is the strongest country in the region, by far. They know an Israel that controls Palestinian life and land and intends to keep it that way. They see this as simpler: a country that oppresses and a people that is oppressed. They are not entirely right — too little agency is offered to Palestinians in this telling — but they are not entirely wrong.


I found his thinking quite illustrative, especially when I think about how my parents felt about Israel, my own feelings, and what I hear from my children.


Klein adds more challenging context when discussing antisemitism. He writes, “Antisemitism is not why most 18- to 29-year-olds see Israel as the aggressor nation. Antisemitism is not why the images and facts out of Gaza horrify. They are opposed to the Israel they know: an Israel that has no interest in peace — that has actively sabotaged efforts at peace — and that can imagine no security for itself absent the endless control of Palestinian lives.”


That is quite a powerful charge. And remember this is what Klein believes 18-29 year-olds are thinking. I know not everyone agrees with this assessment, including this alternative view from Dr. Rafael Medoff that is worth reading.


Speaking of Israel, I am very proud of our ongoing Weekly Wednesday Webinar Series with voices from Israel. This past week we heard from Danielle Mor of the Jewish Agency for Israel -- full recording hereI know you may not watch the entire webinar, but I implore you to watch two short clips. This clip tells the incredible story about Oshri, a young man who survived the October 7 attacks, and this clip includes Danielle’s very moving closing comments. I hope you take the time to watch.


Next week we will hear from Amb. Collette Avital, a former member of the Knesset and former Israel Ambassador to Portugal. Register here.


We are excited to open nominations for the 2024 Laurie Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional Award. Established 10 years ago to honor our esteemed colleague and friend Laurie Rogoway, a pillar of Jewish professional leadership for over 30 years in Portland. This award celebrates an outstanding early to mid-career professional (minimum three years) working in a professional capacity at a Jewish communal organization in Greater Portland. The recipient will receive up to $1,800 to participate in a professional development experience. Anyone may nominate an outstanding professional by filling out this nomination form by March 8.


Do not miss the 19th annual Gus and Libby Solomon Memorial Lecture, presented by the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at Portland State University, on Thursday, February 15 at 7:30 p.m. at The University Hotel. Professor David Myers, the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History at UCLA and director of the UCLA Initiative to Study Hate, will speak on, “Will Zion Be Redeemed By Justice? Shifting Attitudes Toward Israel Among U.S. Jews.” Dr. Myers will explore important new ideological and generational fault-lines that have emerged in recent decades among Jews in the United States toward Israel. He will assess the impact of October 7 on those divisions and ask whether a new era in American Jewish attitudes toward Israel has begun. Admission is free but space is limited. Please register here.


Shabbat shalom.


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