In the next few blogs I will reflect on my recent travels with 30 of my congregants to Budapest, Prague, Terezin, Bratislava, and Berlin.
In a word, this was a trip of memory. The Nazis succeeded in wiping from the face of Central and Eastern Europe not only the Jewish people but Jewish life itself. Though some Jews remain in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Germany, and these three countries, to varying degrees, are honoring the memory of the murdered victims, there is meager evidence of vibrant Jewish life there, and it is questionable whether there is a meaningful Jewish future for those Hungarian, Czech and German Jews who are struggling valiantly to recreate Jewish communities.
Lest we think, however, that we here in the liberal American Jewish community have it made, a new analysis was published this week in the monthly on-line journal of Jewish thought “Mosaic” by demographers Jack Wertheimer and Steven M. Cohen who reanalyze last year’s Pew survey of the American Jewish community especially with regards to the state of the liberal Reform and Conservative movements and the increasingly large portions of the unaffiliated.
Wertheimer’s and Cohen’s reanalysis is must-read for all rabbis, educators, Jewish leaders and synagogue boards, as well as the affiliated, non-affiliated, and intermarried families as a veritable wake-up call concerning Jewish identity and Jewish continuity in America, if the trends uncovered in this Pew Survey are to be believed and taken seriously.
Intermarriage, falling Jewish birthrates, large numbers of Jews remaining single, growing Jewish illiteracy, and dwindling congregations are facts that are dramatically affecting liberal American Jewish self-identification.
That being said, there are still effective responses that can reverse these trends including deeper adult and child education, Day School and family education programs, Jewish summer camp experiences, youth and college programming, and trips to Israel.
The article “The Pew Survey Reanalyzed: More Bad News, but a Glimmer of Hope” can be accessed at http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2014/11/the-pew-survey-reanalyzed/
I suggest passing this article around to your rabbis, educators, and synagogue boards, as well as to your friends, children, grandchildren, and those who are intermarried but feel strongly about Jewish continuity in their families.