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Saturday, July 7, 2007

The cloudy future of the Jewish people

From Shmuel Rosner we learn about this view of the future of the Jews:
A working paper prepared for next week's Conference on the Future of the Jewish People, sponsored by The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, contains the following assessment: "The future of the Jewish People is not assured, through there are great opportunities" for thriving.
Gee whizz. "On the one hand this, but on the other hand that." For that sort of analysis, we didn't need experts.  And there is also this insight:
Another paper, entitled "The Jewish People in 2030," suggests that the world is unlikely to see a significant increase in the number of Jews. Furthermore, it states, "the Jewish people is facing a serious problem of high quality leadership, spiritual, political and professional with no clear trend of improvement."
"You don't say," on both counts. Dennis Ross, for once, is not off the mark at all:
"One has to retain a sense of humility," says Dennis Ross, former peace envoy during the Clinton administration and now, among other things, chairman of the JPPPI.
Humility would appear to be wise, especially in this circumstance. There is so much to be humble about. And here is a bit of understatement.
"The whole profile of the Jewish people is changing," states another of the conference working papers. These are lengthy, detailed accounts of familiar problems. Groups whose children tend to marry non-Jews at a high rate, and which have low fertility rates, will be reduced in number and influence.
A more succinct way of saying it is that the Jewish people outside Israel at least, are facing extinction. The Jewish people have been poised on the brink of disaster for about 2,000 years. The emancipation and the enlighenmnet gave them a little shove forward inasmuch as they did not find, quickly enough, a cohesive national solution that would be a barrier to assimilation. That solution was Zionism, but it was not embraced by the vast majority of Jews. The Holocaust gave another shove toward the abyss. The question to be answered by history is whether or the Jewish people, despite itself, could be rescued from extinction at 1 second to zero hour by the Zionist movement,  or whether the fanatics and the schnorrers and the machers of Shalom Aleichem's shtetl will overcome the Zionist movement and remake Israel in their own image. Can Zionism provide Jews with a positive vision, inspiring enough to motivate a return to Judaism, without descending into fanaticism and barbarism? 
This note is not encouraging:
As for the Jewish people in 2030, the conference papers' prognosis covers all bases: either "thriving," "drifting" "defending" or "dismal." JPPPI Director-General Avinoam Bar-Yosef, who sounded ready for skeptical questions on the essence of planning a people's future, conceded in a telephone conversation from Jerusalem that the Jewish people had survived until now without any planning. On the other hand, he said, "maybe if they had planned things, the situation would be better."
It looks like they have all the bases covered. "Dismal" is probably the closest, but it is overly optimistic. Ben-Gurion said some thing like, "There are no experts on the future. We are the experts, because we are making the future." But Ben Gurion was of that generation of Jews who finally gave up on waiting for the Messiah and shrugging their shoulders when the pogromists and the representatives of the inquisition came instead of the Messiah. Now it turns out that this change in character may be temporary. Haven't Jews learned not to wait for what the future brings? Left to itself, the future will bring only more bad news. Yes of course, if Jews had planned things, perhaps they would have gotten out of Europe ahead of the Holocaust, and built a strong Zionist community in Palestine, instead of sending a trickle of immigrants in the 20s. Nobody planned for the Holocaust. But nobody is doing much about the dismal situation in the Diaspora, which requires a lot of imagination and innovation. As usual, the "powers" that be are opposed or apathetic, just as they were in the 20s of the last century.
Judaism will not survive in the modern world without reinventing itself, to provide an attractive and worthwhile vision and reference group to non-religious Jews, and an easy path of entry for those who want to join or re-join the Jewish nation.  
Zionism will not survive in the twenty first century either, unless it can provide a positive vision of Israel as a modern society, rather than a society of religious zealots bent on settlement projects and rebuilding the temple.
Ami Isseroff

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


  • To Isseroff:
    It is not Judaism that will not survive, but the adherents of Liberal Judaism. The fastest growing demographic in the US is Jews over 70 with fewer than 4 Jewish grandchildren. These are mainly adherents of a non-religious faith with no genes of religious reproduction. I predict that with someone such as Dennis Ross chairing this event, this message will be the only mention of this fact. He was blind to the folley of Oslow and he'll be blind to the fact that non-Halachic Judaism is doomed if for no other reason than the fact that its adherents have no interest in having more Jewish babies or in paying for tuition for Jewish day-school education what few children they do have through high school. The future of Liberal Judasim was completely predicted by the Rabeyyim even during the 'enlightenment'. It just took some time to run its inevitable course.

    By Blogger Gary, At July 10, 2007 10:12:00 PM GMT+00:00  

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