Examine ourselves to ensure Judaism’s survival

I have previously written about what appears to be an increase in anti-Semitic acts in the United States, 1,879 in 2018, reported by the Anti-Defamation League.
There is no question that synagogue shootings, cemetery desecrations, and Nazi graffiti are terrible criminal acts.
But, instead of frightening congregants away, these attacks have only served to help unify congregants in defense of their temple family and their religious beliefs.
Perhaps a greater threat to American Jews were the 2013 findings of the Pew Foundation’s Report on Changing Jewish Identity presented at my synagogue.
It just wasn’t possible within the relatively short amount of time to review all the findings, but our lay leader tried his best and I “followed-up” by reading the 20-page summary report, which I printed out after I arrived home.
Briefly stated, the Pew Report indicated that the younger generations of Jews, unlike their parents and grandparents, were increasingly becoming “less Jewish.”
A great majority, almost 75% among the non-Orthodox, marry non-Jews. Almost a third of millennial Jews, those born after 1980, say they have no religion at all.
The Pew Report stated that the number of Americans with direct Jewish ancestry who consider themselves Jewish, but without religion, is rising.
The greater danger to the future of American Judaism was spelled out in the extensive 2013 American Judaism Survey by the Pew Research Center.
The 20-page summary report, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” (www.pewforum.org), explained how and why the younger American Jews are leaving their religion, just as their non-Jewish counterparts (ages 18-29) are doing the same.
The majority of Jews say that being Jewish is part of their ancestry and culture and that belief in God is not a necessary part of being Jewish.
Nearly all Jews with a Jewish spouse raise their children as Jewish, but intermarriage rates have increased. More young Jews are marrying out of their faith and are less likely to raise their children as Jews.
The survey found that of all the denominational movements, one- quarter of people who were raised Orthodox have become Conservative or Reform; 30% of those raised Conservative have become Reform Jews; 28% of those raised Reform have left Judaism entirely.
As a result of the threatening issue of diminishing Jewish adherents as exposed by the Pew Report, Professor Robert Mnookin, in “The Jewish American Paradox: Embracing Choice in a Changing World,” presents a relatively brief and clear proposal for solving “This Jewish Future Problem.”
What Mnookin proposes is to lower the traditional barriers to becoming a Jew. It will not be necessary to have a Jewish mother or father to become Jewish; you will not have to abide by dietary requirements.
Instead, congregations should offer prospective members “a smorgasbord of Jewish values: music, food, traditions, rituals, spirituality, language, philanthropic causes and connections with Israel.”
The Pew Report of 2013 was a “wake-up call” to all concerned Jews to be open to change.
Be you Orthodox, Conservative or Reform…. Welcome Jewish newcomers of any race. Welcome converts. Be friendly and sincere. Be inclusive.
We are called by our tradition to welcome the stranger and to live lives clothed in our high ethical standards.
If we don’t do these things, Judaism will not survive.

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