Hipster ‘East Side Jews’ recreate their religion
Created by a cohort of Reboot graduates, many of them members of IKAR, the founders of ‘East Side Judaism’ sought a more localized, experimental way of celebrating their faith and connecting to community.
They call themselves “East Side Jews,” this group of young (and young-ish) artists, writers and self-proclaimed hipsters who crave Jewish community and culture; maybe the occasional, spiced-up Jewish ritual; but not necessarily a Torah service — or a rabbi.
Created by a cohort of Reboot graduates, many of them members of IKAR, the founders sought a more localized, experimental way of celebrating their Judaism and connecting to community. Jill Soloway, a television writer and producer of the shows “Six Feet Under” and “United States of Tara,” has led the charge, using her penchant for partying and her background in theater to produce events that the screenwriter Micah Fitzerman-Blue calls a “freaky, experimental, post-denominational, re-exploration of ritual form.”
Here’s a smattering of what that means: They held a Havdalah event called “Sacred/Profane” at Spice Station Silverlake, where they dunked homemade french fries in turmeric and curry, drank beer and listened to the Jewish adult-film actress Nina Hartley lecture on “Sacred Sensuality” (even though, technically, that was the profane part). Another time, they celebrated Rosh Hodesh on the rooftop of the Wi Spa, calling it “Once in a Jew Moon,” during which men and women made their way through an Asian-style mikveh and, afterward, gathered under the open sky for Torah study with Rabbi Sharon Brous.
“We want to see ourselves as the new hub of a resurgent Jewish community on the East Side,” Fitzerman-Blue, 29 and the son of a conservative rabbi from Tulsa, Okla., said. Before East Side Jews, “there really wasn’t anything happening on the East Side that combined the cultural experience that I wanted with the religious affiliation; there wasn’t anything fun to do for a young person without kids who wanted to go be Jewish. And I sure as s—- didn’t want to start a synagogue.”