The 'Unaffiliated' Danger Within

Editor's Notebook

thinkstock

By Jane Eisner

Published May 29, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The New York survey found, for instance, that 55% of all Jewish households contributed to Jewish causes other than federations. Among the Haredim, it was 93%. Among wealthier, affiliated, non-Haredi households, it was 94%.

Among the unaffiliated: 27%.

If a large, growing segment of the Jewish population is totally disinterested in supporting Jewish institutions and causes — a central obligation whether you consider Jews a tribe or a faith — isn’t that an existential threat, too?

Then there is the touchy subject of marriage and children, as in: Haredim marry early and have large families, while the less affiliated marry later (if at all) and have fewer children. The survey found that non-Orthodox children amount to only 39% of all Jewish children in the New York area. And that was in 2011. The trend lines are unmistakeable, with the rate of replacement for the non-Orthodox estimated at 1.3, far below the 2.1 rate necessary for a population to remain at its current level. You don’t need a doctorate in sociology to decipher this code. The Haredi portion of the pie is growing in part because the rest is contracting on its own.

It’s true that more openness to converts can replenish those numbers, but not by a lot. It’s also true that New York is unique, but only in size and concentration of Jews. To excuse away the findings is to deny their importance.

For the hard truth is that many non-Orthodox Jews find it difficult and uncomfortable to persuade other Jews, even their own children, to care deeply about their faith and culture and to privilege its values and teachings with the dedication displayed by the Orthodox. The result is a larger-than-ever proportion of Jews who, by all accounts, don’t much care about being Jewish.

This apathy and alienation can be just as damaging as fundamentalism, creating a vacuum that the super-devout can easily, dangerously fill. Rather than weigh one threat against another, we’d do better to recognize that both extremes jeopardize the future.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.