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In picking and choosing the aspects of Orthodoxy that appeal to them, they are trying to reclaim not just traditional Judaism, but the kinds of communal rhythms and obligations that are so often missing from contemporary American culture.
Within a few months of moving to Texas from Washington, D.
In large, coastal cities like New York or Los Angeles, Jewish life is ambient and available; a slide toward ritual may well help young people fit in with a cultural community.
But in a place filled with mega-churches and immigrants from all over the globe, Orthodox Judaism isn’t something young people slide into. The sprawling city of Houston has a large Jewish population sorted by highways and suburbs: Since it can take so long to drive from one side of the city to the other, geography often dictates what kind of Jewish life is accessible.
But even the young Jews who gravitate toward Orthodoxy, rather than away from it, are still making individual choices about their beliefs and practices, picking among rituals and crafting lifestyles that fit their environments. A greater proportion of Jews in their 20s and early 30s identify as Orthodox than do Jews over the age of 50; the opposite is true of every other Jewish movement.
Klapholz called it “varsity-level davening.”Lay-led, independent minyans are increasingly common in big cities like New York; Furman and Klapholz said they intentionally modeled their new group on communities they had been part of when they lived in D. This isn’t to say they’ve given up on institutional Jewish life in Houston.
Most Saturdays, they attend services at two different synagogues near their apartment—when they first started dating, it was modern Orthodox for her, Conservative for him, but now they often go together.
There aren’t a lot of grassroots, independent groups, especially not for prayer, said Elise Passy, who until recently was the coordinator of an organization called Big Tent Judaism.
This is part of “the conservative, with a small ‘c,’ nature of Houston,” she said; people tend to gravitate toward the institutions they’re used to. The group meets in various people’s houses on Friday nights for Kabbalat Shabbat, the songs and prayers that formally welcome in the Sabbath.