The future of the Jewish people is in copper mirrors!
That is what I would tell several dozen world Jewish leaders who are convening right now in Jerusalem in order to figure out how the Jewish people can survive and thrive. Under the aegis of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, dozens of top Jewish leaders are meeting now to figure out how to keep the Jewish people from shrinking/disappearing through intermarriage and low birth rates. You can follow the schedule and see some sessions on video.
To use an Israeli expression, Orthodox women “hayu kvar b’seret hazeh” – they have been in this movie before. The future of the Jewish people was hanging by a thread during the enslavement in Egypt. Orthodox women today uphold as their role models those Israelite women during the Egyptian enslavement who represent female empowerment. The midrash Tanhuma explains that when the men were distanced from marital life, the women went into the fields where their exhaused husbands were laboring and enticed the men using their copper mirrors, fried fish & chips, and enough wine to arouse the spouse’s desire. Rashi comments that this assertiveness was Divinely rewarded and the women were blessed with super-fecundity, expressed in the hyperbole “shisha b’keres echad” – that they gave birth to six at a time. The copper mirrors were subsequently incorporated into the basin in the Tabernacle and Temple: “Moses made the basin and its stand from the copper mirrors of the women who raised crowds” of chidren. (Rashi on Ex.1:7 and 38:8).
If I were invited to explain at this conference what would ensure our future, I would give a lecture centered around this midrash. What puzzles me is how the leaders, bright and analytical, can miss the answer that is staring them in the face: give every encouragement to those women, mostly in the Orthodox sector, who want to raise large families. Give them the modern equivalent of copper mirrors.
To see a graphic explanation of what the future has in store, see the website “Will your grandchildren be Jews?” The chart there shows that 100 haredi Jews today will become 3401 Jews four generations from now, while 100 Reform Jews will become 10 in that same time span.
If I were a business owner and wanted to expand my business, I would look at and emulate other businesses that are thriving and succeeding. If I were a Martian and I were asked how to ensure the future of the Jews, I would examine closely what the centrist and haredi Orthodox have done and are doing, since it is there that we find neglibile intermarriage, early marriage, large families, low divorce.
Why is this obvious to me, and not to the Jewish People Policy Planning participants ?
There are numerous articles in the papers delineating the conundrums they will tackle. Shmuel Rosner writes about the conference in “Policy Planning Institute: The future of the Jewish people is not assured.” (Strangely, the photo currently on the Haaretz website illustrating Rosner’s article shows a haredi classroom. Somebody realizes that this is the one place the future is assured.)
Prime Minister Olmert’s address to the conference was discussed in Haaretz and generated 500 talkbacks. “Olmert at Jewish conference: Not all Jews want to make aliyah”
R. David Eliezrie poses an excellent question in Tuesday’s Jerusalem Post: “A policy conference without haredim?”
And the Jerusalem Post (25 bTamuz) also reported that the “Jewish Continuity conference rapped over absence of haredim”
All day long I have been pondering – why is the solution clear to me and not to others?
P.S. For a start, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, could add Hebrew dates to the conference announcement on their website. Sadly, I could not find a single Hebrew date there.