Sunday, October 13, 2013

Self-delusion in America’s Jewish community?

Jews in America are under pressure. The American President wants Israel to do what he wants. Israel won’t do what he wants. So he turns to America’s Jews. He tells American Jewish leaders they must bend Israel to his goals (as reported in a private email from ZOA leaders to members and special friends, March 7, 2011).  

American Jewish influence isn’t what it used to be. No President has ever spoken to American Jewish leaders in this manner. No US president has appeared so arrogant towards one of America’s most loyal allies (see Caroline Glick, “Column One: Fool me twice”, The Jerusalem Post, February 3, 2012).  

American Jews feel this heat because, like it or not, political influence is linked to numbers. In America, population numbers count—and Jewish population numbers in America do not look promising. For the last twenty years, American Jewish numbers have not grown.

In 1990, Jewish population studies identified app 5.4 million Jews in America. By 2010, that number had grown to perhaps 5.6 million. That’s not growth. That’s stagnation.

In America, populations that grow gain political influence; populations that stagnate can lose influence.  It’s the American way: bigger is better.

Look at Muslim population numbers. In 1990, according to a January 2011 Pew Research Report, there were app 300,000 Muslims in America. By 2010, that number grew more than seven-fold to app. 2.3 million. That’s not stagnation.

That same Pew Research Report estimated that there will be more than 6.2 million Muslims in America by 2030. For Jews, however, the arc of population growth tilts down, not up. With a high rate of Jewish out-marriage (marrying a non-Jew without conversion) and with an increasing number of Jews choosing ‘No religion’, where do you think Jewish population numbers will be in 2030?

The October 2013 Pew Research Report suggests an answer. The percentage of U.S. adults who say they are Jewish when asked about their religion has declined by about half since the late 1950s. In addition, seventy-one per cent of non-Orthodox Jews intermarry--and two-thirds of Jewish parents who say they have ‘no religion’ raise their children as ‘Not Jewish’.

These Jewish-Muslim numbers suggest that a demographic time-bomb ticks for Jews in America. While many claim that current Muslim political influence reflects favouritism by a pro-Muslim President, such an analysis is simplistic. Muslim influence is also connected to population numbers—and money.

Minorities gain influence because of numbers and money. It’s how minorities protect themselves. Muslims are no different. Their political influence goes deeper than a President’s bias. Their money and population numbers now increase fast enough to attract important invitations once reserved exclusively for Jews.

The Muslim star ascends in America. Their numbers increase. Their money spreads.

For Jew in America, however, a demographic time-bomb ticks away. Within twenty years, there will be more Muslims in America than Jews. At the current rate, Muslims could outvote Jews by 2030.

Jewish liberals want that time-bomb to go away. They have found the way to do that.  

In September 2013, a Brandeis University population study appeared.  This new report argues that previous Jewish population studies have grossly underestimated American Jewish numbers. Where previous estimates identify an American Jewish population of 5.4 -5.6 million, the real number, the Brandeis study argues, is 6.8 million.

According to Brandeis University, Jewish population numbers are strong, not weak. America’s Jewish population will keep ahead of Muslims for the foreseeable future. The inference is, don’t worry; American Jewish power will remain strong.

But is that 6.8 million number correct? The Brandeis study’s conclusions are not based on a Halachic definition of ‘Jew’. They are not based on synagogue affiliation or local Jewish Federation membership. They are based on a statistical trick called, ‘self-identity’. 

For liberal Jews desperately seeking to retain strength-of-numbers, religious or ethnic affiliation is irrelevant. All one need do is ‘self-select’, much as one self-selects to root for the New York Yankees or the Atlanta Braves. Nothing more is needed.

Liberal Jews build their Jewish census around non-halachic converts and other non-affiliated Jews who raise their children as ‘Not Jewish’. This is certainly good for Liberals. But it is disastrous for Israel.

Jewish Israel exists because the Jewish religion says Israel is Jewish. Israel survives because of the link between G-d and the Land. Look at the Tanach. Look at Orthodox liturgy. If American Jewry builds its numbers with non-believing and non-Jewish Jews, it disconnects from the religious significance of  Israel. It betrays Jewish Israel with an ideology of ‘Not Jewish.’

With Jews like these, Israel won’t need enemies. Jews themselves will turn against Israel.

How do two population studies of America’s Jews (in September and October 2013) come to such divergent conclusions? Does self-delusion play a role here?

These are important questions. Jews in America need answers.

They better get those answers. Happy endings never come from self-delusion.




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