After #JewishAmerica Survey, What Do We Do?

Editorial

Look Who’s Family: Intermarried Jews are far less likely to be involved in the community. Taking steps to address that is one glaring message of the landmark Pew study on Jewish America.
getty images
Look Who’s Family: Intermarried Jews are far less likely to be involved in the community. Taking steps to address that is one glaring message of the landmark Pew study on Jewish America.

Published October 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

• Forget the litmus test on Israel. About seven-in-ten Jews say they feel either very or somewhat attached to Israel, and 43% have visited Israel at least once, so let’s stop worrying that somehow American Jews are morphing into anti-Zionists. But this survey shows a huge disconnect between the self-proclaimed “pro Israel” lobby that generally supports the Netanyahu government without question and the sentiments of the actual Jewish public they purport to represent.

Just 38% of American Jews say that the Israeli government is making a sincere effort to establish peace with the Palestinians. Only 17% think the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s security, while 44% say that it’s harmful.

Clearly, the voices of these critical but still attached Jews must be included in the national conversation. It’s time to get past the silly debate about whether J Street or the New Israel Fund or other such organizations are kosher enough to speak in synagogues, at federation meetings and on college campuses. These venues should confidently welcome all knowledgeable, responsible voices — especially since those voices represent a sizeable segment of American Jews.

Rescue the Conservative movement. Only 18% of American Jews identify with Conservative Judaism, half as many as Reform and only 8% more than Orthodox, a stunning decline for the denomination that once was most populous. And the future is even less promising: Only 11% of young Jews say they are Conservative, while the median age of Conservative Jews, 55, is the highest of any denomination.

The initial responses by Conservative leaders to these stark numbers — ranging from denial to defensiveness — can be excused for the moment, but it’s a self-defeating strategy going forward. Younger Jews, especially, eschew the formulaic, often passionless Jewish worship that characterizes too many Conservative synagogues, and the movement’s understandable reluctance to embrace intermarriage has sent droves of its members to less restrictive, less demanding Reform temples.

Further shrinkage would be a tragedy, and not just for the Jews who believe in the Conservative mission of placing tradition directly in conversation with modernity.

A weakened Conservative movement harms other denominations as well. Orthodoxy has benefited from the influx of Conservative Jews seeking a more observant lifestyle; already that flow has recessed as the numbers have shrunk. All Jews benefit from having multiple choices and outlets, and from the high level of scholarship and communal leadership that has emerged from Conservative institutions in the last century. Many of the creative rabbis now leading pioneering nondenominational congregations were educated in Conservative seminaries.


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 William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • 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.