Cover image for Generation J
Generation J
Schiffman, Lisa.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
[San Francisco] : HarperSanFrancisco, [1999]

Physical Description:
166 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BM205 .S27 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"I'm not alone. I am part of a generation of fragmented Jews. We're in a kind of limbo. We're suspended between young adulthood and middle age, between Judaism and atheism, between a desire to believe in religion and a personal history of skepticism. Call us a bunch of searchers. Call us post-Holocaust Jews. Call us Generation J."

Generation J is the ambivalent generation: unaffiliated seekers, men and women who have grown up questioning the bounds of organized religion. Lisa Schiffman is one of these seekers, and Generation J chronicles her journey through the contradictory landscape of Jewish identity. Moving from the personal to the universal, from autobiography to anthropology, from laughter to tears, Schiffman shows us the many ways in which one can be religious.

Whether dipping into a ritual bath, getting henna-tattooed with the Star of David, unravelling the mysteries of the kabbalah, or confronting what Jewish tradition has to say about gay marriage, Schiffman reveals the conflicts of meaning and connection common to all who try to chart their own spiritual path. And, through it all, with humor and sensitivity, she confronts the reasons for her own quest and begins to untangle some of the thorniest questions about identity, community, and religion in America today.

This engaging exploration of what it means to be Jewish is every bit as much a fascinating tour of the varieties of contemporary Jewish practice as it is an unusual personal quest. Smart, funny, and provocative, Schiffman brilliantly explores the problems and possibilities facing any spiritual seeker today.

Author Notes

Lisa Schiffman earned a master's degree in social anthropology from Oxford University. She was formerly the associate editor of the San Francisco Review of Books and has published her prose in Zyzzyva, where it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She works now as an Internet strategist on the Web sites of major corporations.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Seekers of the religious and spiritual, or those who are merely thoughtfully secular-minded, will find Schiffman's musings on her strenuous efforts to understand what it means to be Jewish in the "post-Holocaust" age provocative, insightful, and funny. "Confessing" to an interfaith marriage, Schiffman confronts the fact that many Jews see her domestic arrangement as the cause of "the demise of the Jewish bloodline," even as some rabbis officiate at same-sex marriages because such relationships represent "two Jews who want to have a Jewish home." Expanding on her father's description of Judaism as a "business," Schiffman imagines ad campaigns for "Judaism--The Brand" to sponsor marathons and therapy sessions and searches for a new tagline since "clearly, `the Chosen Ones' [isn't] working." But the seriousness of Schiffman's search is clear in her earnest explorations of Zen Buddhism, the "sound of God" in music and song, and kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) that fit well with current millennial reassessments. --Dale Edwyna Smith

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although positioned as emblematic of a generation of searching, post-Holocaust Jews, this memoir is actually the more specific storyÄat once engaging and exasperatingÄof a thirty-something Jewish woman attempting to reconsider her assimilation. A former editor at the San Francisco Review of Books, Schiffman presents a spiritual journey that has a Northern Californian cast: she attends a workshop on Judaism and psychology, talks with Rodger Kamenetz (author of The Jew in the Lotus), and interviews Rabbi Lew, who headed the Berkeley Zen center before returning to conservative Judaism. Having been raised in near-complete ignorance of her religion, Schiffman speculates about how Judaism might benefit from a new "brand" identity and voices amazement at the plethora of kosher supermarket products. On the other hand, she knows enough about anthropology to conclude that she should look outside that discipline for insights, since its major theorists dismiss the spiritual. Ultimately, Schiffman finds a congenial rabbi who validates her piecemeal approach to Judaism, and she decides to start reading the Torah with a friend. It's unfortunate that Schiffman seems to have operated in a vacuum, oblivious to similar quests that regularly appear in the Jewish press. When she ends her book by getting a temporary Star of David tattoo, it's not surprising that she doesn't cite the biblical prohibition against indelible tattoos nor the post-concentration camp implication of tattooing. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

What does being Jewish mean? Is it a cultural identity? An ethnic identity? A religious identity? At the end of this busy century, so many Jews are seeking to answer that question that, according to editor and book critic Schiffman, they form a generation of seekers, Generation J. Here, in a breezy, breathless, and overly personal fashion, Schiffman writes about their seemingly endless search for meaning. Traveling a quirky, circuitous path, Schiffman haphazardly probes just about everything out there: tai chi, witchcraft, rabbis, priests, and that new wave of popular spirituality, the kabbala. But this short, disappointing book never gets past the surface layer of meaning. Not recommended.ÄIdelle Rudman, Touro Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. IX
1 Generation Jp. 1
2 This Thing Called Intermarriagep. 14
3 The Zen Of Being Jewishp. 31
4 Kikes and Queersp. 47
5 Notes From The Fieldp. 51
6 Judaism: The Brandp. 71
7 Stray Hairs and Painted Nailsp. 77
8 The Sound Of Godp. 94
9 The Kabbalistsp. 114
10 Kosher-Me?p. 123
11 The Gleaningsp. 142
12 Exilep. 161