Can Jewish leaders work together with this silent majority to overthrow the regnant approaches to intermarriage? And if so, how?
First and foremost, a more assertive approach to intermarriage would require the dignified acknowledgement by Jewish institutions that endogamous families are the Jewish ideal—the best hope for transmitting a strong identity to the next generation. Once this crucial premise is openly espoused, the next logical step is to invest heavily in intensive forms of Jewish education through the college years and in helping Jewish singles, including the “alumni” of this education, to meet each other. Our advanced technologies and the ease of contemporary travel offer unprecedented opportunities to bring American Jews together with their peers and to nurture stronger connections with the Jewish people globally.
Practically speaking, it makes sense, as the previous paragraph suggests, to focus less energy on courting already intermarried families—once an intermarriage has occurred, it is far more difficult for communal institutions to intervene—than on encouraging as many single Jews as possible to marry within the community. Birthright Israel serves as one model for such programs; many more initiatives like it are needed in the United States. Their message should be transparent: instead of being infantilized with assurances that no strings will ever be attached, younger Jews need to hear without equivocation why it is important to build Jewish families. And they must be told the truth: the American Jewish community is in a fight for its life, and the younger generation is expected to shoulder its share of responsibility.
Jack Wertheimer, “Intermarriage: Can Anything Be Done?” Mosaic (September 2013).
Since the release of the Pew Research Center survey on American Jews, the question I’ve been asked most often is what surprises me about it.
What surprises me most is that anybody is surprised.
The Pew report points to a series of phenomena that are well known in the world today: identity fragmentation, radical free choice, embracement of diversity, and the breakdown of organizational and ideological loyalties. For many of these phenomena we are the canary in the coal mine, the early adopters and the over-adapters.
The report is not good news or bad news. It shows us a reality we can’t ignore anymore. It is up to us to see the opportunities hidden in this new reality.
Andres Spokoiny, “Study Points The Way Toward More Avenues to Jewish Life”, The Jewish Week (8 November 2013), 42.