PEW Survey Reanalyzed

From Dr. Naomi:  In my opinion, some of the major issues in our Jewish community are:

  1. Poor education in religious schools that are not Orthodox, not teaching the basics of Judaism and how central support for Israel and for the Jewish people are. Jews are not only a religious group. Teaching what Jews and Israelis have given the world and how we have always been connected to our homeland.

  2. Tired communal institutions not addressing the needs of the modern world

  3. Being clear about intermarriage, try to prevent but if people marry "out" being inclusive, welcoming and focusing on education for the entire family.

  4. Making a concerted effort to reach Jewish teenagers before they go to the universities which no longer support free speech for Jews who are Zionists. All Jewish, Christian and people of other faiths who support Israel must work together to take back our schools from MSA. Those who donate to universities must demand that the schools no longer support intolerance and racism. I have stopped donating to Columbia University, NYU and Yale. At Princeton, elected officials from israel are not welcome while antisemites (racists, who call for Palestine from the river to the sea) are hosted. J Street, funded by gulf oil money and Soros who is not a supporter of Israel, is not a pro-Israel organization.

What about the college years? Several studies have shown that organized campus activities generally produce positive outcomes. The energetic growth of Chabad, some haredi groups, and a recent push by the Modern Orthodox movement have expanded opportunities for extracurricular Jewish learning and socializing on campus. But the messages conveyed by these programs do not always appeal to non-Orthodox Jews. Meanwhile, non-Orthodox personnel and models of engagement are rarely present on campuses, where they are greatly needed. Here, then, is another opportunity waiting to be seized.

As for the post-college years, we noted early on how the large majority of non-Orthodox Jews remain single and, if they marry, defer childbearing. Most connect to Jewish life episodically if at all, perhaps attending an occasional social or cultural event or joining their parents on a holiday. At this key period of life, when major decisions are being made, why has the Jewish community neglected to provide them with a rich menu of opportunities to remain involved?

Finally, for those who intermarry, why is there no concerted effort to invite Gentile partners and spouses to convert to Judaism? The differences between intermarried and so-called “conversionary” families are significant, with the latter much likelier to conduct themselves as do families in which both partners have been born Jewish. Conversion-oriented courses and institutes lead to more families that are exclusively committed to Jewish life, with all the attendant positive results—and here is yet another area of wise investment on the part of a community seeking to retain its members and ensure its future.

Beyond all of the initiatives outlined above lies the issue of quality: quality of life, and quality of standards. Jewish communities owe it to their members, especially the well-educated among them, to connect the two. The leaders of these communities need to explain to their members that just as a minimal Jewish education does a disservice to Jewish children, stunting their growth, a continuing immersion in Jewish life and Jewish learning invigorates the mind, nourishes the soul, and inspires the dedication of individuals and communities alike. They need to tell them that just as showing up sporadically at a Jewish event does nothing for a generation patently hungry for connection, more opportunities for Jews at every age level to come together with their peers for purposes of Jewish enrichment hold out the promise of making a transformative difference in their own lives and, through them, the life of their people. They need to tell them that just as intermarriage most often leads to disengagement from Jewish life, the advantages of in-marriage are positively salutary in their effect on Jewish family life and beyond, empowering all to claim their rightful role in the stream of the generations and instilling a healthy pride in a tradition transcending time and place.