The emerging generation is on the move in a big way, and it has the potential to change the face of contemporary Jewish communities, both in Israel and the Diaspora.
Recent graduates and young professionals are leaving their hometowns, regions, or even countries, seeking new opportunities to explore and learn across the globe.
Montreal native Mindy Eklove, 33, will enter a new phase of her life when she moves to Australia for medical school next year. Eklove, who visits her family in Ottawa, backpacked extensively across Africa and Asia while volunteering for various causes. She then moved to Toronto in 2007 to work as the director of National Young Leadership and Coast-to-Coast Israel and Overseas for the Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA. Each adventure was an experience of a lifetime, she said.
The mass migratory tendencies of the emerging gen seem to have become one of our most defining characteristics. We have a deep love for travel, we have big plans, and we have options. Most millennials leave home for a few main reasons: work, play, education or volunteerism (or “voluntourism,” which is to combine travel and charity work, as Eklove has done).
The increasing popularity of such trips amongst the emerging gen reflects its priority to give back to – and experience – the world before the concerns of raising a family and maintaining a career take precedence. The two spheres of travel and home life with marriage and children are also increasingly becoming blended in this highly technological, globalized world.
This is a chance to practise what has been preached; it’s a chance to improve the lives of others and better oneself at the same time, Eklove said. Yet, unless Israel is the destination – for example the Social Action Missions organized by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa – or trips to events like Tribefest, establishing connections with other Jewish communities often does not seem to be a priority.
When moving away for work and education, though, priorities tend to be different, Eklove noted. Establishing a strong connection to the local Jewish community becomes more of a priority because the travelling tends to be for an extended time period and many want to create a home away from home as they establish their new life.
Ottawa is both a revolving door and a potential new home for members of the emerging gen. While many who grew up here leave to pursue opportunities elsewhere, there are also countless examples of millennials who come here for work or school and while some move on to other places, others decide to stay here permanently.
Migration in itself is not unique to the Jewish community, or to this generation, and travel and relocation, by force or free will, are part of the historic fabric of the Jewish narrative, which continues to have an impact on the world.
The evolution of technology, globalization, current workforce trends and societal attitudes are the four keys to a potential travel paradigm shift, and we are already seeing some initial results.
When the 2008 recession left so many recent graduates scrambling for work, many took up residence in their parents’ basements. At the same time, many parents suffered from full-blown empty-nest syndrome as their kids took off for Asia, Europe or the Middle East.
Friends have moved to South Korea to teach English and, so far, have decided against returning. They choose instead to create their own lives in a country where, despite the small Jewish community among the majority Buddhists and Christians, the Talmud has become a bestseller and, in recent years, become mandatory reading for primary school students.
Others, like Eklove, are making plans to earn their next degrees in various far-flung countries.
Eklove, with a background in theatre and volunteering, and a desire to “be a really good doctor” so she can assist those in need in Third World countries, shows that many millennials are not afraid of reinventing themselves.
There’s no question that travel and migration are having an impact on global Jewish communities because it’s the people who make the place, and the people are ever-changing. Eklove encourages her peers to seize travel opportunities while they’re available and make the most of them.
“If you want to do something, do it,” she said. “Because that ‘some day, one day’ is never going to come. If you wait until you’re ready, you’re never going to be.”
Lingering recession setbacks aside, we are a generation on track to retire rich in cultural experiences.