Shared background helps Jewish teens form lasting friendships

Teens pose for a photo at Congregation Shaare Emeth.

A group of teens pose for a photo at Congregation Shaare Emeth.  

For teens all around the world, friendships can be defined by the relative proximity to each other, similar interests and other social aspects. In short, friends become friends for a reason. And while not as commonly recognized, religious identity is a large connection point that Jewish teenagers have with other Jewish teenagers. 

For Josh Rosen, a freshman at Ladue Horton Watkins High School and member of Congregation Shaare Emeth, having similar experiences and sharing similar interests are key to his relationships.

“I feel that especially as a Jewish person, it feels really nice being able to talk with other Jewish people,” said Rosen. “It’s really cool to talk to someone and confide in someone, knowing you have something in common, and can always talk about something.”

He also knows that his environment plays an important role in the friendships he has. 

“[Though] I met most of my Jewish friends through religious school, I feel that the school I go to has a big impact on how many Jewish friends I have,” Rosen said.” I go to a school that is well-populated (with) Jewish people. I’m very lucky to be in an environment where I can see most of my good friends both in and out of school, that I’m able to attend things that allow me to stay in touch with them.”

Due to their like-mindedness, his close friends will continue to stay friends for the foreseeable future.

 “I’ll stay in touch with most of my Jewish friends, but mainly because we’re just really close friends,” he said. “Just by being able to go to an event or going over to their house to hang out, we’ll continue to stay close.”

Idan Lerner, a sophomore at Parkway Central High School and member of Kol Rinah, agrees that religion has a role in lasting friendships.

“I feel like we can relate more because we have similar lifestyles,” said Lerner. “We have something in common that helps us connect to each other better, so we are more able to become friends. Jewish people tend to be friends and stay friends with other Jewish people.” 

Lerner says his school  has played a massive part in his Jewish identity and friendships.

“I went to [Mirowitz] for nine years. It’s because of the school I went to that I have a large amount of friends in general that are Jewish. They are the people I’ve known the longest and are closest to.”

In the future, Lerner is confident that the bonds that he has formed will remain strong. The friendships have, and will continue to make an impact on his life for the better.

“I do think that I will remain close with my Jewish friends,” he said. “Though I don’t think we will remain friends only because we are Jewish, we’ll remain friends because of our relationship. 

Danielle Platke also says religion plays a substantial role in her life. A member of Shaare Emeth and senior at Parkway North High School, she realizes that her Jewish friendships have formed for a reason.

“I find myself having a lot more in common with my Jewish friends and just connecting easier with them,” she said. “It has made it a lot easier to make friends that I have more in common with and share similar values with.” 

Additionally, her friends come from a variety of places, which affects her friendships. 

“I went to a Jewish preschool, so that’s where I met the majority of the Jewish friends that I have now,” Platke said.  “I have been surrounded by them since preschool, and we’ve ended up doing a lot of common activities. I also have maintained those friendships through religious school and especially through attending a Jewish summer camp every summer.”

These friends have a special place in her heart and she knows that the bonds they have created will last.

 “I fully intend on maintaining my Jewish friendships throughout the rest of my life,” she said. “I want my kids to have a similar experience with the sense of community that I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with, and I want to experience all of this with my closest friends.”