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July 5, 2012 3:56 pm

American Jewry: The 2012 Edition

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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A man praying, wearing tefillin. Photo: wiki commons.

To some in the Jewish community, the recently published UJA Federation of New York study which looked at New York’s Jewish demographics, came as a shock.  It found that liberal Jews have fewer children, do not provide meaningful Jewish education to them, intermarry, assimilate and eventually disappear as Jews. On the other hand, Orthodox Jews have more children, make intensive Jewish Education a priority resulting in continuity and vibrant growth. 74% of all New York City’s Jewish Children are now Orthodox – a vast increase from previous surveys.

Amazingly, American Jewry lives and operates in two different worlds – the religious and the liberal. They’re completely different planets (along the lines of theological discussions regarding The State of Jews vs. The State of Israelis).  Religious people and liberals think differently, act differently, vote differently and now the Jewish community is seeing the effects of this schism in an overwhelming manner.  I believe this trend will only continue to grow as liberals become even more universalist and more distant from their religion, nation and people.

The disconnect between the Jewish establishment and the religiously committed Jewish community has grown larger as many major American Jewish organizations like the UJA, the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League and others are  largely run by secular liberal Jews. I wonder how many of them even send their kids to Jewish day schools?

While some provide services that are of interest to the religious community, very few actually relate to them, engage them or are even remotely geared toward that demographic. Most alarming, is that while some of these groups were presumably established to serve the Jewish community, there are very few orthodox or traditional Jews working for them. Secular, liberal Jews are “serving” a community that has grown so vastly apart from them  and is so different in many ways. I’d venture a guess that amongst the ten largest Jewish organizations in America, perhaps 5% of the staff is religious, and fewer of their programs are targeting the religious communities.

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It is time for “The New Jewish Community 1.01” to be introduced. The Jewish people is omni-present and as Ze’ev Jabotinsky said in 1937, “Jewish religious tradition is not an archaic object of our history, but an active pulsating power which exists today and will continue for all eternity.”

I can only hope that the Jewish establishment realizes that future leaders must not simply act different, but they must look different too for the Jewish people to thrive.

Ronn Torossian is Founder of 5WPR and an active Jewish philanthropist.

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