Monday, December 31, 2012

Jewish Assimilation Statistics/Anecdotes

I mentioned in my previous post the articles on kiruv in The Klal Perspectives Journal.

One of the conclusions that I reached after reading these essays is that the state of Jews in the United States is steadily getting worse. They are melting in the melting post at an increasing rate. As we start reading the book of Exodus this week, I cannot help but remember those Israelites who preferred to stay in Egypt and died during the plague of darkness. Here are a few quotes from the above mentioned Klal Perspectives Journal that illustrate the situation.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky:

Currently, less than 70% of the students enrolled in our Yeshiva and seminary (Shapell’s/Darche Noam and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya) have two Jewish parents. This number has been steadily dropping over the past few years.
Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald:
Contemporaneously with, and clearly related to, the rapid decline of the Conservative movement over the last two decades, it is my view that there has been a precipitous drop in the number of people becoming baalei teshuva in America. This decline is because Jewish youngsters today simply have no real connection to Judaism upon which to build. The vast majority of non-Orthodox Jewish youth now receive no religious education. Many have never been Bar or Bat Mitzvahed, and consequently, have little or no connection with Jewish life. As a result, fewer and fewer young people today respond to conventional outreach efforts. An invitation to a Friday night meal, a Purim party, a Learners Service, etc., is almost hollow and meaningless because virtually nothing Jewish resonates within them.
Lori Palatnik:
The “middle class” of Judaism is rapidly disappearing. Gone is the generation in which Jews generally married Jews (and if they didn’t, it was still shocking). The distinction between Jew and non-Jew is hardly acknowledged at all.

Today, in some cities (think Seattle, San Francisco, etc…), it is unusual to meet a couple who are not intermarried. My non-observant but proudly Jewish mother-in-law in Chicago tells me, “My friends and I no longer struggle with ‘should we go to the intermarriage of our children?’. Everyone goes. We do not want to lose our kids. Today we struggle with, ‘do we go the christening of our grandchildren?’”

Increasingly we see, either you are “in” – an educated committed Jew – or you are “out,” ignorant, gone from the Jewish ranks, intermarried, assimilated, apathetic. In my family, though raised as secular Jews, three out of four of us became observant. The fourth one got married in a church on Shabbos and is raising his kids as Christians.

This more or less confirms what I wrote a while back:
Interesting and sad: when I grew up in the 1960s, the rate of intermarriage among American Jews was around 10%. Today, it is about 50%!

The Jews that came to America at the beginning of the previous century were not always careful in mitzvah observance, but they were culturally Jewish. Their mother tongue was Yiddish and they would not even imagine marrying out. The next generation was also culturally Jewish, but Yiddish was a second language for them to be used when speaking to Bubbie and Zaide.

The third generation, that is to say mine, did not speak Yiddish. We were American through and through! Why shouldn't I marry a gentile? She eats bacon and we eat bacon. What's the big deal?

I have on many occasions hosted kids from "Birthright" at my Shabbat table. Many of these kids are the products of my peers that intermarried. The mother is Jewish and the father is not, or the other way around. They are very confused about their identity. How many of them will return, and how many will leave the Jewish nation forever?

The point of the story is that we really are a nation only through our Torah.

Torah really is amazing. It's too bad that so many never get the chance to see what it is all about.

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