WHO TOOK THE JEWS?
I woke up this morning to discover that the Jews have disappeared!
The New York Times today reported that “the intermarriage rate, a bellwether statistic, has reached a high of 58 percent for all Jews, and 71 percent for non-Orthodox Jews – a huge change from before 1970 when only 17 percent of Jews married outside the faith. Two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue, one-fourth do not believe in God and one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year.”
While the absolute number of Jews in America has remained steady – about 6.6 million – the numbers of those connecting their Jewishness in a positive manner (e.g. identifying with formal Jewish institutions), has diminished drastically in the last couple of decades. As the New Times article states: “The survey uses a wide definition of who is a Jew, a much-debated topic. The researchers included the 22 percent of Jews who describe themselves as having “no religion,” but who identify as Jewish because they have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish, and feel Jewish by culture or ethnicity. However, the percentage of “Jews of no religion” has grown with each successive generation, peaking with the millennials (those born after 1980), of whom 32 percent say they have no religion.”
These Jews “without religion” are those raising the next generation of Jewish children. Here’s the scary part, as described in the article: “Jews without religion tend not to raise their children Jewish, so this secular trend has serious consequences for what Jewish leaders call “Jewish continuity.” Of the “Jews of no religion” who have children at home, two-thirds are not raising their children Jewish in any way. This is in contrast to the “Jews with religion,” of whom 93 percent said they are raising their children to have a Jewish identity.”
There IS a crisis. Whether it is here now – or coming in the next few decades – it IS real. The question is: How do we respond?
I don’t believe that we can fight what is happening. I DO believe that we can find ways to nurture Jewish meaning, connection, and continuity within all the demographics of American Jewry. The question is simple but profound: HOW? For those of you who joined us at Congregation Beth Torah for Shabbat Shuvah, you heard me address one aspect of this crisis in my sermon. For those who missed it, you may read it by CLICKING HERE.