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Op-Ed: Be a Liberal American Jew - and Assimilate

Someting must be done about the results of the recent Pew Survey on Jewish identity.
Published: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 12:17 PM


Let us start by reviewing results of the first major survey of American Jews in 10 years, which tell us that 71 percent of non-Orthodox Jews intermarry, two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue, one-fourth do not believe in God, and one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year.

Let us further absorb the fact that last year’s UJA Jewish Community Survey found that liberal Jews have fewer children, do not provide meaningful Jewish education, Intermarry, assimilate and largely disappear as Jews.

Orthodox Jews have more children, make intensive Jewish Education a priority and assure Jewish continuity and vibrant growth.  74% of all New York City’s Jewish Children are now Orthodox – a vast increase from previous surveys.

Perhaps American Jewry should finally wake up and stop talking about “liberalism”, “pluralism” and the other non-particularistic values which have harmed the American Jewish community immensely.

These numbers simply tell us the facts - newer generations of non observant Jews simply will not be Jewish. Cultural Judaism without the drive for religious Judaism cannot sustain itself.  The failures of the Reform and Conservative streams, to acquiesce to fewer stringencies, to making the holidays the focal point of annual Jewish ritual has simply come full circle.  Judaism has to be part of one’s life in order to succeed.

Why is it that every other Jewish community in the world accepts these things except American Jews? Tradition is tradition – and while all of us have different levels of observance, one must understand that there are inalienable Jewish traditions. And if American Jewry for so many years has pushed liberalism, hasn’t it helped lead us to these very high assimilation rate and generations born to Jews losing their Jewish affiliations?

If we are about continuity then these practices have to change.  What at this point can be more important than Jewish education? How can anything else even compare? American Jews need to be exposed to the beauty of Judaism – from Torah to Kabbalah, literature to art – and the wonderful Land of Israel.

We need a real revolution in the American Jewish community, where Rabbis, Executive Directors and anyone else who spends a penny of Jewish communal money faces tough questions as to where and how their money is being spent.  Jewish institutions – synagogues, schools, others – must regroup and look at what they are doing. Why are we losing all of these people?

Quite sadly, Alan Cooperman, deputy director of the research project, said it quite clearly when talking about American Jews “Older Jews are Jews by religion. Younger Jews are Jews of no religion.”

This survey is a continuation which shows that American Jewry lives in two different worlds – those who practice and those who do not. The tide of liberalism has helped bring us closer to assimilation – and has caused irreparable harmful to the Jewish people.

Ronn Torossian is a Public Relations executive, author & Philanthropist living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.