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Thursday, June 21, 2012

If we ignore the ultra-Orthodox, will they go away? #tomorrow12

Two panels at the President's conference that dealt with the future of the Jewish community did not include any ultra-Orthodox representatives despite the fact that another panel I pointed out today did include them. The two panels were The Challenge of Being Jewish in the Diaspora and New Interpretations of an Ancient Identity: The Next Jewish Generation.
"It was the elephant in the room," Dov Waxman, associate professor of political science at CUNY, who was in the audience said. "The growing demographic weight of Orthodoxy and ultra-Ortdhoxy as revealed in the recent UJA Federation Study raises huge and fundamental questions about the Jewish future. It has implications for federations to sustain themselves and also huge implications for the future political and cultural orientation of Jewish communities."

Last week new data released by UJA - Federation of New York showed Orthodox and specifically ultra-Orthodox or haredi Jews were by far the single fastest growing demographic in the Jewish population of that city. According to the study, the 10 percent increase in the number of Jews living in the Big Apple over the past decade --who now number 1.5 million-- was largely due to high birth rates among the fervently religious. At the same time, the number of people affiliated with Reform and Conservative Judaism dropped and intermarriage rates among seculars remained high at about 50 percent.


While Cohen's study has been discussed at length in Jewish media it was mostly skirted around in Jerusalem on Wednesday even when it did come up. During the talk titled "The Challenge of Being Jewish in the Diaspora" the editor of The Jerusalem Post Steve Linde, who was its moderator, asked Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Reform movement, about the study's findings.

"Lets be careful with that study," replied Jacobs. "It is the New York Jewish community and it is unlike any Jewish community except parts of Israel."

Jacobs called ultra-Orthodox Judaism a "beautiful and authentic" form of the Jewish faith. He added, however, that non-Orthodox denominations like his own were equally so and should not be discriminated against.

"It's easier to be Jewish in the diaspora than a non-Orthodox Jew in Israel," he said, referring to the exclusion of non-Orthodox rabbis from the religious establishment in Israel, which is dominated by Orthodoxy.
Let's go to the videotape.

You might recall that rabbi Rick is a board member of the New Israel Fund, a member of J Street's 'rabbinic cabinet,' and has participated in demonstrations in Israel against Jewish residents of Jerusalem. He favors BDS - but 'only against the settlements.' If any of you happen to run into rabbi Rick at the conference on Thursday (if he is still there), you may want to show him the chart below, which shows that, if anything, New York is actually quite representative, and in places where there are few or no Orthodox Jews, the Jewish community is in danger of disappearing entirely due to intermarriage and the failure to reproduce at a replacement rate.

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