The Failure to Replace the Six Million

Following World War II, there were about six million Jews in America. If they had simply increased at a modest 1.5% per year (the same growth rate as Israeli Jews), those six million, from 1945 to 2004, would have grown to become 14 million. That is without any additional effort at replacing those lost in World War II.

Rachel Neuwirth,

Rachel Neuwirth
Rachel Neuwirth
INN:RW
The collective performance of mainline American Jewish leadership should be evaluated as an incentive toward reforms and improvements. In the absence of any mechanism to accomplish that task, this article is hereby presented.

There are over 50 member organizations comprising the Conference of Presidents of Major America Jewish Organizations, plus numerous other non-Conference organizations. There is certainly no shortage of Jewish leaders, but there is a shortage of Jewish leadership.

Despite the numerous organizations and despite their accomplishments, there are serious failures that need to be confronted. This study has identified fifteen major failures, which are not being properly addressed. Organizations naturally show their best face to attract members and donations, but a balanced and fair evaluation must include failures as well as achievements.

It is not the purpose here to cite individual organizations, which vary greatly in mission and in achievement. Rather, the purpose is to view the American Jewish community as a whole and measure their composite performance. This evaluation is timely, and even urgent, because Israel is facing extreme danger, anti-Semitism is increasing globally, and we look to our Jewish leaders for competent guidance and leadership.

The following is just one of several major failures where the need for improvement is painfully evident.

Failure to Replace the Six Million

There was never any serious effort to replace the Six Million who perished in the Holocaust. Following World War II, there were about six million Jews in America. If they had simply increased at a modest 1.5% per year (the same growth rate as Israeli Jews), those six million, from 1945 to 2004, would have grown to become 14 million. That is without any additional effort at replacing those lost in World War II.

From 1945 to 2004, American Jews received three large waves of Jewish immigrants: Holocaust survivors; immigration from Israel; and later, Jews from the former Soviet Union. During this period, the small Orthodox community was also growing in size. American Jewry is also more affluent than most Americans. Despite all these advantages, we managed, during this time, to actually decline from about six million to about five million, instead of growing to 14 million. (And some of those five million are only marginally Jewish, at best.) We are therefore missing nine million American Jews - fifty percent more than Hitler killed.

The bulk of American Jewry, despite major advantages, still shrank from six to five million. That means that the bulk of American Jewry actually shrank at a far faster rate than just six to five during recent decades, reflecting high assimilation plus low birth rates. And with no more waves of Jewish immigration in prospect, what additional shrinkage can we now anticipate? Is there any other ethnic group in America that is voluntarily committing cultural suicide in this manner? Although there is some awareness of this problem, there is no truly serious program now in place to arrest this trend, much less to reverse it.

After World War II, there were about 12 million Jews surviving in the world, with six million in the US and 6 million outside the US. Most of those Jews outside America were in war-torn Europe, in the former Soviet Union and in Arab countries, with most of them living under bad conditions. While American Jews, under favorable conditions, were declining from six to five million, these other Jews, under bad conditions, were growing from six to nine million during the same period - a 1.5% rate of annual increase. That is how we now account for the current world Jewish population of 14 million; i.e., five million in the US plus nine million elsewhere, including Israel.

It is astonishing to contemplate the contrast. Six million America Jews, with all the advantages, decline to five million, while the other six million, with all the disadvantages, grow by 50% during the same time period. Does that suggest that Jews can survive hard times much better than good times?

Had American Jews simply grown at 1.5% annually, those additional nine million Jews would, by now, be giving us a dramatically improved situation in America and in the world. This record is beyond disgraceful and the failed American Jewish leadership seems incapable of feeling either shame or embarrassment.

But perhaps the biggest criticism of all is the ongoing failure of Jewish leadership to honestly evaluate itself and institute much needed reforms. In the past few years, the Jews of Israel, and also in the Diaspora, are becoming painfully aware that we face severe dangers, and we must mobilize all of our strength and wisdom to face them. We have not yet recovered numerically from the Holocaust and we now face new dangers.

Will our leadership fail us again or finally rise to the challenge?





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