American Jewry now stands at a crossroads. Our choices are stark: we either accept as inevitable the declining numbers of engaged Jews, or we work to expand the community and improve the quality of Jewish life going forward.
Despite the evidence of deeply disturbing population trends, the community is bereft of any sense of crisis.
This posture stands in stark contrast to what happened in the 1990’s when communal organizations acknowledged a Jewish continuity crisis and created elaborate task forces and special programs to address it. These include effective programs, such as Birthright Israel and leadership training efforts. Today’s near-inaction bespeaks a self-imposed helplessness. The time to mobilize the Jewish community to adopt effective policies and programs is now.
In brief, we need to advance on multiple fronts in the coming years. The American Jewish community needs:
A communal mobilization campaign
Diminished costs for day school tuition
More emphasis upon quality supplemental schooling that extends at least seven...
Select findings of the Pew Research Center’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans”:
Late marriage and non-marriage: most (51%) non-Orthodox Jews aged 25-39 are not married, and of those aged 40-49, fully 18% have never married.
Frequent intermarriage: Of those raised Reform—to take one example--80% of those who married between 2000 and 2013 have non-Jewish spouses.
Low birthrates: Non-Orthodox Jewish women bear, on average, just 1.7 children, below the 2.1 replacement level; and owing to intermarriage, many of those children will identify as non-Jews when they grow up.
The disaffiliation of two million Jews: Of the 7.2 million adult Americans who have at least one Jewish parent, 5.1 million identify as Jews and the other 2.1 million do not.
Overall, we find diminished Jewish social connections, a weaker sense of meaningful and compelling Judaism, and fewer engaged Jews, outside the Orthodox sector. Down the line, we face the prospect of a community consisting of many ultra-Orthodox Jews, on the one hand, and “partly Jewish” Jews, as they call themselves, on the other.
From the recent: Strategic Directions for Jewish Life: A Call to Action
Los Angeles Jewish Journal
Steven M. Cohen | July 2015