Gen Z and Jewish? I recommend This Series

February 15, 2021
Naomi Tamir

Bad Honnef, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Class of 2021

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Have you heard of the Grand Army? Grand Army is the newly released Netflix series, by Katie Cappiello a Playwright, director, and outspoken feminist badass. The story follows the day to day life of five high school freshman/juniors at Grand Army high school

There is Joey, a vocal feminist alpha girl, who unfortunately experiences sexual assault by the people she trusts.

Dom, a first-generation American Haitian basketball player, trying to attain her dream of becoming a therapist, while at the same time working hard to financially provide for her family. 

The swimmer boy Sidd hopes to get into Harvard and have a picture-perfect life, but he struggles with his dual identity as an Indian-American and coming to terms with his own sexuality. 

Meanwhile, musician Jay fights for racial injustice after his friend gets expelled for a prank that exposes racism at his school. 

The fifth is Leila, an adopted Chinese girl, who does not feel accepted in her new school, both in the Jewish or Chinese community.

Other than the dark world in Riverdale and the surreal world of Euphoria, which exaggerates drug use and sexual activity in today's generation. The world shown in Grand Army is actually not far from the intense reality that many teenagers today living in and outside of the US face.

The characters experience challenges that normal high schoolers would have to deal with such as trying to fit in or stand out and being seen, ups and downs in friendships and relationships, pursuing a dream and worrying about their futures, and of course surviving and partying. But each also carries a heavy load on their shoulders as they struggle with sexual, racial, and socioeconomic politics, civil unrest, trauma, fear, and uncertainty. 

At the same time, they try to find themselves during this mess. They thrive for change by disregarding the norms. For most students, diversity and queer identities are normalized, they reject labels, and are ready to fight for freedom and accept the risk of falling.

Grand Army truly represents the spirit of Gen Z!

We don't wait for the Boomers to do something. All of this affects us right now. We are the generation that is given the tools at our disposal. Twitter, Insta, TikTok, and almost every social media platform. While they may have a negative influence on our mental health and make us anxious, they also connect us worldwide. We build movements and protest, we raise our voices loudly and make them count by voting and signing petitions, we raise awareness and fight for issues we care about, we tell our story and share experiences, and we accept and empower others and care. We do our best thinking beyond ourselves. 

Because we. are. bigger than ourselves.

Right, that's part of BBYOs Vision. So what other Jewish content needs to be seen? 

Personally: Growing up I was missing the non-stereotyped representation of a child of migrated parents, of independent girls, tom-boys, children with non-visual disabilities, children experiencing generational trauma or belonging to a minority people, etc. let alone specifically Jewish representation. Mostly I was missing protagonists, heroes, or adventurers embracing Jewish culture and heritage. Maybe that's why now all my love goes to Jewish celebs?

Does the same go for you? Well, you'll love to hear that Odessa A`Zion, who plays Joey, is a Jewish Queen!

In Grand Army, there isn’t just one sole Jewish figure, but instead a variety of Jewish identities. Leila is adopted by Jewish parents and embraces her Judaism. We see her drawing Star of David’s all over her notepad or presenting about the Kaifeng Jews in class. Her best friend Rachel, a typical modern-day Jew, takes Leila with her to the synagogue. We even get to see them celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of Rachel's Sister, dancing hora. *mazal tov!*

There, Leila meets the feminist and modern Rabbi Sadie who is truly inspirational and caring like a good Jewish mother. Twice we get to see another Jewish character, Eli, who proudly wears his rainbow kippah, but here comes the perfect example that Jewish characters don’t always have to be thoughtful, good people. If you want to represent Jews then you also have to represent Jewish villains or ignorant characters like George, the as he calls himself only “half a Jew.” 

The Grand Army did it right, not excluding different Jewish identities! 

All in all, the representation of all these different people in the series is amazing. It's not entirely easy to watch but it's thought-provoking to see deep into the minds of characters such as  Joey, Dom, Sidd, Jay, and Leila.

I guarantee you that you’ll resonate with at least one of those complex characters!

Enjoy watching Grand Army!

Naomi is a BBG living near Cologne, Germany who is passionate about politics, cultures and Tikkun Olam.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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