Is it really a second Holocaust?

Thoughts on the Rabbi Peretz controversy: Criticizing an educator who points out the magnitude of the problem won’t solve it.

David Rubin, | updated: 16:50

OpEds David Rubin
David Rubin
David Rubin

 After Israel’s Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz (Jewish Home), referred to the massive assimilation and intermarriage in the United States as a “second Holocaust”, he was quickly blasted by liberal Jewish organizations ranging from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to the dean of the (Conservative) Schechter Rabbinical Seminary. Even Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz (Likud) jumped into the fray, declaring that “assimilation is not a critical problem”.

On the surface, the rapidity and the intensity of the assault on Rabbi Peretz seems to reflect the sensitivity of the Holocaust, which for Jews around the world defines humanity’s ultimate crime, which was done specifically to our people, an unimaginable act of evil. Any loose use of the term usually brings outrage, as with the recent comparison by US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of illegal immigrant families held at the Mexican border with Jewish prisoners at the Nazi concentration camps. Her obscene remarks were rightly criticized, although perhaps not strongly enough by some of the members of her own Democratic party.

But what about the words of Rabbi Peretz? Can an intermarriage rate really be compared to the Holocaust, when six million Jews were intentionally slaughtered?

Firstly, it must be stated that Peretz is not the first Jew to call the rampant assimilation a “spiritual holocaust”.  Many other leading rabbis have referred to it as such, and even former Prime Minister Golda Meir was quoted saying that anyone who assimilates has made a choice to “join the six million” who perished in the Holocaust. 

Whether such assimilation is a choice can certainly be disputed. The increasing number of American Jews, not to mention a much larger percentage of European Jews, who have only been given a public school (not Jewish) education and were never taught the rudiments of Judaism or Jewish history have the halakhic (Jewish legal) status of a “tinok shenishba”, or one who was “abducted” as a child from the Jewish people. One can hardly consider the tragic loss of such individuals to intermarriage to be a choice to join the six million who were murdered by the Nazis.

Having said all that, the facts are hard to ignore.  With the notable exception of the Orthodox community in all of its variations, with each generation in America, the connection to Jewish roots has been weakened further and further to the point where the American Jewish community is intermarrying in droves, generally with secular non-Jews, thereby leaving their little remnant of Judaism behind. Even more disturbing, large and growing numbers of American Jews aren’t getting married at all.

If we want to understand the future of American Jewry and the social/political ramifications, it helps to examine the actual intermarriage rates, which vary considerably among the major US Jewish movements or denominations: 

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, virtually all Orthodox respondents who are married have a Jewish spouse (98% or more). While a much smaller majority of married Conservative Jews have Jewish spouses (73%), only half of Reform Jews who are married have a Jewish spouse (50%). In the last group of married Jews, the ones who have no denominational affiliation, meaning no identification with organized Jewish religion, just a minority (31%) have a Jewish spouse. 

Given that the number of Jews identifying as unaffiliated is growing, while the Conservative and Reform populations are shrinking, the prospects for American Jewish seem limited to the Orthodox, who are, to a great extent, the only ones marrying in large numbers and having children in large numbers. Another recent study, this by the Jewish People Policy Institute, found that only half of (mostly non-Orthodox) American Jews aged 25-54 are married, a majority to Gentiles. 

With rapidly decreasing numbers and gloomy prospects for traditional family life in the non-Orthodox American Jewish community, it indeed is not crazy and not an exaggeration to refer to it as a spiritual or demographic holocaust. True, it is not a hostile act being carried out against us by the Gentiles, rather a mass-movement of internal self-destruction unintentionally being implemented by the Jews of America. 

The hysterical reaction to the simple statement of that fact by Rafi Peretz, former chief rabbi of the IDF and a
Wouldn’t it make sense to guarantee a free full-time Jewish education for every American Jewish child? What better investment in the Jewish future could there be? 
long-time leader in Jewish education, is more a reflection of the failure of the established American Jewish community in supporting full-time Jewish education. Rather than pouring money into organizations like ADL, which often bases its public statements on its obvious left-wing biases, wouldn’t it make sense to guarantee a free full-time Jewish education for every American Jewish child? What better investment in the Jewish future could there be? 

Education Minister Peretz is not the issue. Filling the vacuum in American Jewish education by criticizing an educator who points out the magnitude of the problem won’t solve the problem, nor will pretending, as Minister Steinetz did, that assimilation is not a serious problem. Rather than blame the messenger, the American Jewish establishment would do well to consult with Rabbi Peretz to discuss ideas for strengthening maximal American Jewish education. One can assume that they have the means to fund this project and/or to redirect their fundraising operations towards this vital goal, but American Jews must know that Israel is ready and eager to help. 

David Rubin, former Mayor of Shiloh Israel, is the author of “Trump and the Jews”. Rubin is the founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, established after he and his then three-year-old son were wounded in a terror attack. He can be found at www.DavidRubinIsrael.com or at www.ShilohIsraelChildren.org 




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