Should We Give Up On American Jewry?

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6 Responses

  1. Eliezer Barzilai says:

    I’m not sure I share the sense of dread at the prospect of the withering away of the American Jewish population. I understand that we have a responsibility to save our co-religionists from drifting away. But the low birthrate issue and other elements of the quoted article seems more concerned with maintaining ourselves as a going concern. Why? Is this some sort of instinctive drive to ensure ethnic continuity?

  2. Netanel Livni says:

    What is the purpose of maintaining a community in exile? Why not focus on Aliya and building communities in Israel? It is not surprising that the community in exile is dying. After all, our Sages tell us in Ketuvot 110 that anyone who dwells outside of the land of Israel is as one who has no G-d. And how can a community survive without G-d? Rav Zvi Hirsh Kalisher Zt”l interpreted this saying as follows: If someone desires and actively works towards reestablishing his personal and communal life in the Land then he has a G-d. However, if someone’s heart does not long to live in the land, and that someone does not take the opportunities G-d gave him to return to the land, then he is truly as one without G-d. In the end, any attempts to establish strong communities in the exile will be doomed to failure. It is simply not a natural state of affairs for a Jew to live outside of the Land.

  3. mirty says:

    When G-d told Abraham that his children would be like the stars in the sky and the grains of sand in the dessert, Abraham had only one son. And his son had only two sons; only one of whom followed the path of his father.

    You could see Jewish survival as a numbers game, if you so choose, but that shows a lack of faith and a profound misunderstanding of what Judaism really means. We are not a racial group that is striving, through sheer numbers, to overpower other groups. We are a people bringing to the world a set of beliefs and a moral code. That is not accomplished through sheer fecundity.

    Nor is it reasonable to dismiss out-of-hand the impact of non-Orthodox Judaism and Jews. I live in a place where the Jewish community is thriving, our children strongly committed to a Jewish future, yet only a handful of Jews here are Orthodox. We are Reform, Reconstructionist, Liberal and Conservative. Contrary to a popular misconception, we are not “one-day-a-year” Jews. We are Jews every day. Our children learn Judaism at home and at school and at shul. That is true for my Reform Jewish household as it is for Orthodox households. My daughter went to Israel with NFTY last summer, along with 500 other Reform Jewish kids. It’s not so very different from the trip I took with NCSY thirty years ago.

    You may find the real future of Orthodoxy in people like my parents, who set aside their own prejudices to welcome their grandchildren. Be not so quick to dismiss us non-frum Jews. We are alive and well.

  4. Toby Katz says:

    Netanel — the situation in Israel is little better than that in the US. The average secular Israeli is unsure of why or whether Jews have any right to Israel. He thinks the Arab claim to the land is stronger than the Jewish claim. He suspects his country is illegitimate. His ideal of a beautiful woman is a “Shvedya” — a Swedish blonde. He spends his waking hours scheming to get a green card and dreaming about the money he will make if he ever gets to New York, Miami, or LA. His birth rate is only slightly higher than that of his American co-religionists — i.e., very low. WAY lower than the Arab birthrate. Among Israeli men living here in Miami where I live, South American wives are as common — maybe more common — than Jewish wives. (That’s because there aren’t so many Swedes here, I guess.)

    Mirty — you are very much the exception among Reform Jews and I don’t know why you bother to hang on so hard to your Reform identity. Personally I think you are hanging out with the wrong friends. I realize that there is a core of dedicated, idealistic laymen in the Reform movement — the type of person you exemplify — but in the long run there are too few of you to maintain a viable movement, especially when endogamy is becoming increasingly rare in the Reform and Conservative movements. Second generation, third generation intermarriages. Be realistic: after how many generations of intermarried parents is it still reasonable to consider the kids “Jews”?

  5. Netanel Livni says:

    Toby,

    I don’t understand your point. Why is the fact that the average secular Israeli has not real sense of his identity mean that we should invest in build communities in exile? We have limited resources and while kiruv is important, all other efforts should be channeled towards moving as many Jews to our homeland as we can. While the community in Israel has many many problems of its own, it is still the only place where an individual has the potential to lead a full Torah life and therefore we must focus our efforts on building our community in the only Land that G-d gave us.

  6. Yehudit says:

    I don’t know, I attend several different shuls and independent minyans and I see young Jewish couples with babies all over the place. Some middle-aged ones too.

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