Have American Jews become so secular that they are actually non Jewish? A fascinating article on The Algemeiner makes a convincing case. Outside of the Orthodox community, Jews are increasingly moving away from traditional Jewish beliefs and practices—abandoning Jewish education, turning against Israel, having no Temple affiliation—or being “2 Day a Year” attendees—and overwhelmingly embracing Intermarriage (80% rate for the Reform).
All of this is horrifying to me! Just one generation ago, American Jews supported Israel, and I mean all of them. I do not know a single Jew, over the age of 65, that would disagree, yet the Millennials and younger, who get to experience Israel firsthand, and for free, on Birthright trips, condemn Israel, insanely calling it an Apartheid State, due to propaganda about supposed abuse of the Arabs (none of which is true).
How did we get to this point? Strangely enough, it stems from society becoming more inclusive. Throughout history, whenever Jews were allowed to assimilate, they have done so, in large numbers. Anti-Semitism, conversely, has the odd effect of making Jews feel, and behave, more Jewishly. (Such irony, it’s hard to wrap your mind around.)
How can we reverse this scary trend towards complete Secularism? It’s not going to be easy. Certainly, we have to make a much bigger effort to reach out to the Unaffiliated, as a start. We have to offer comprehensive Jewish education—to kids and adults. We have to promote traditional families and that means, whenever possible, a Jewish husband and a Jewish wife, committed to raising Jewish children. For those who are already Intermarried, we need to facilitate and encourage conversion.
Does this mean we all need to be Orthodox? Of course not. But we must not embrace the other extreme of Secularism. There is a middle ground that will work for most of us. Judaism is not an insignificant relic. It is a living, breathing entity that sustains us as a community and makes our lives a million times better. If we choose to abandon it, we will suffer and I don’t want to see that happen.
Judaism will look different, and mean something different, to each one of us. That is ok. What’s not ok is throwing our hands up in despair and accepting these changes as inevitable. It can be reversed; dare I say, it must be reversed, if we are to grow and thrive as a People.
I love Judaism. I love other Jews. I want to see both flourish. I care way too much about our future to give up and I pray that everyone else feels the same. We must do our part to ensure that Judaism remains relevant and continues to be practiced. A secular life, without the Commandments, and without God, is so frightening and awful, I can’t even contemplate it.
Judaism isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely better than the alternative of a Humanist, Godless world without order and meaning.