The Pew Study and a brand new cartoon
The American Jewish community (or what’s left of it) is abuzz over the recent pew study results. You can review the poll here, but the bottom line is that with the exception of the Orthodox, American Jewry is dying a slow, self inflicted, not entirely unpleasant death. If you are a Reform Jew you have just as much of a chance of marrying a gentile as a Jew, If you are a Conservative Jew, one in four of your grandchildren will likely marry out of the faith.
I attended a group discussion on the topic this Shabbat led by Rabbi Ron Ami-Meyers. He shared Rabbi David Wolpe, a prominent Conservative Rabbi’s take on our communal Jewish report card, where Rabbi Wolpe concludes that…
‘Being an ethical person’ while central to Judaism, is not uniquely Jewish. ’Fighting for social justice’ while central to Judaism, is not uniquely Jewish. Wearing Tefillin, praying in Hebrew, Torah study, Kashrut, Jewish communal adherence and activities — these things are activities that keep the core of the tradition alive. As Jews have left the latter and profess the former, adherence weakens. It requires a massive, sustained and serious effort to move the etiolated Jews of good conscience to the passionate Jews of ritual involvement.
Rabbi Wolpe notes that Jewish national survival depends on American Jews embracing “Wearing Tefillin, praying in Hebrew, Torah study, Kashrut”. In other words to survive they must become Orthodox. .
Rabbi Meyers asked his discussion group “what should the Orthodox response to these dire numbers be?”. Despite the fluorescent writing on the wall and even after hearing the ominous Pew statistics and Rabbi Wolpe’s Conservative confession, some in our diverse congregation asserted (in so many words) that the problem lies within Orthodoxy and that the cure is for the traditionally observant to emulate their Conservative and Reform brethren.
As I pondered the events of the day, I came across a flyer from the Jewish Family Service of Seattle (JFS). The flyer promoted an educational series conducted in conjunction with two local Reform synagogues, Temple B’Nai Torah and Temple De-Hirsh Sinai. The event in the program is billed as a Two Part Series on Hindu Beliefs in which the instructor “Shelly Krishnamurty’s mission is for people to understand Hinduism. The flyer goes on to share that “Shelly will share the most important tenets of the Hindu Religion“
After seeing the JFS flyer I was reminded of a different response offered to Rabbi Meyers’ question (i.e. How should the Orthodox respond) which was … ”wait, just wait”.
- Rabbi Ron-Ami Meyer’s take on the Pew Survey
- Can liberal Judaism survive? (washingtonpost.com)
- New poll: US Jewry totally screwed (blogs.timesofisrael.com)
- Rise of ‘Jews of no religion’ most significant find of Pew study, says director (timesofisrael.com)
- Winners and losers in the Pew Research poll on American Jews (religionnews.com)