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May 1, 2009

Spiritual Pros, Cons

There are exciting policy implications in the new Synagogue 3000 study by Steven M. Cohen and Lawrence Hoffman, “How Spiritual Are America’s Jews?” as reported in your April 17 article “Study: Young Jews More Spiritual, Yet More Divided?”

The authors of the study conclude that stressing spirituality will broaden Judaism’s appeal to one of the growth sectors of the Jewish population: the children of intermarried parents, “who sometimes feel marginalized among born Jews but find familiarity in spirituality.” The same can be said of interfaith couples and families generally — the more that Jewish communities emphasize spirituality, the more they will be attracted to Jewish life.

One criticism I have of the study, however, is its use of the term “Jews-by-Choice” to refer to the children of one Jewish parent. Your article says that the authors chose to do this because such children “effectively choose as adults how they will identify themselves.” In fact, many intermarried parents effectively choose to identify and raise their children as Jews. Inviting and supporting that choice by more of those parents is essential to growing and enriching our community. When intermarried parents do make that choice, their children should be regarded simply as Jews, not assigned a distinctive and potentially off-putting status.

Edmund C. Case
Newton, Mass.

I read with interest your article about the results of a study that looked at “spirituality” among younger Jews. My colleague Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox and I have completed a study to be published in the journal The Gerontologist that looks at the same issue among older American Jews. Similarly, we found that older Jews who reported being “spiritual” were more likely to report being both Jewish and Christian. The older Jews who reported being only Jewish were more likely to see their Jewish identity in ethnic and familial terms.

It seems clear that outside of the Orthodox community, “spirituality” is correlated with assimilation into the wider American society. Rather than trying to enhance “spirituality,” the Jewish community should focus on building strong ethnic and family ties if it wants to encourage the continued strength and vibrancy of the Jewish people.

Allen Glicksman
Past President
Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Haverford, Pa.

Twitterers, Bloggers Need Reporters, Too

I know precisely what my friend Elisa Spungen Bildner was trying to say (or, more precisely, what was being said on her behalf) in the fund-raising letter for JTA (“Bloggers, Twitterers and Nonprofessionals! Oh, My!” April 17).

It is a lament that could be echoed in many quarters of the world of journalism. Without a responsible, professional press, public discourse devolves into a cacophony of almost-facts and deeply held but sometimes baseless opinions.

I read many Jewish blogs on a daily basis, and even write one of my own. I enjoy many of them. But there’s no substitute for hard news and journalism. The Forward is one source for this, and so, thankfully, is the JTA.

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin
Atlanta, Ga.

‘Kinky’ Seders Aren’t For Everyone

I cannot understand why you have included an article about the Kinky Jews Seder in your newspaper (“At a KinkyJews Seder, Pharoah Isn’t the Only One With the Whip,” April 10).

Just because a group of individuals have chosen to call their spring get-together a Seder does not mean that their activities are of interest to the Jewish community. How can you defend publishing this trivia?

Bernice Lieberman
Urbana, Ill.

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