Smell the smoke? There is a fire burning in the house of the American Jewish community. Sadly, it has been burning for a long time.
The recent Pew study amounted to a pox on all the branches of Judaism. While Orthodoxy had higher birth rates and in-marriage, there was an inexplicable fall-off with age. Reform Judaism still had a large share, but with the very high intermarriage rate its longevity seems doubtful. Conservative Judaism is in dire straits. The largest growing branch of Judaism is “unaffiliated.” None of the statistics were encouraging. No one should be happy.
We have seen evidence of this accelerating trend in our own area, with numerous synagogue closings and the shuttering of the Conservative movement’s high school. Anyone walking through the former Clifton Y cannot help but be shaken at the loss of such a large structure, formerly alive with Jewish activity. Those whose commitment to Israel forms the bedrock of their identification with Judaism should be profoundly disturbed, because as the cohesiveness and voting numbers of the American Jewish community dwindle, so will America’s support of the Jewish State.
As the Jewish community in Israel soon eclipses ours in sheer numbers, it may be time for the flow of support to reverse. The desert has already bloomed, and the urgency to build up a 65 year-old nation has waned. The money we send to Israel may be put to better use encouraging more visits from here to there through the Birthright program. It is time for Israel to engage in far more outreach here in the United States.
Although this crisis has been known for years, these new numbers should add a new sense of urgency to the alphabet soup of Jewish organizations with their multimillion dollar budgets to realize that there can be no more business as usual. The old models have failed. New approaches have to be found. The alternative is that our house will burn down.