Sunday, April 08, 2007

Disappearing American Jewry - Getting our Groove Back

It is a somewhat borrowed title from a book by Scott Shay called "Getting our Groove Back - How to Energize American Jewry" and a combination of Alan Dershowitz' book of a similar title a few years back, which paints a chilling, but IMHO a realistic picture of the fate of American Jews. Shay writes that there are 10 critical "planks" facing American Jewry. One of them is the shrinking of the Jewish population. According to Shay, in 1980, there were 5.9 million Jews in the U.S. Today, that number is 5.2 million, with 2.6 million "committed." He goes on to say that if that trend continues, the American Jewish population will be halved by 2030. He maintains that American Jews contribute greatly to our people hood, and we must find a way to reverse not only this trend, but others as well. He contends that we need to find a way to have 50% of all children receive day school educations. And not only the type found in Orthodox institutions, but we need to also find a way to create sustainable, viable institutions for all Jewish children. And at a fraction of the cost. Day school tuitions today cost in the area of $15,000 - $25,000 depending on the location and type of institution. This puts it beyond the means of some, and the desire of others. If you have three children who attend day schools, you will pay at least $30,000, even after scholarships, if you qualify. That is a lot of money! Shay suggests finding a way to ensure that every child, every family, be given a way to afford a Jewish education.
Shay also points to the "existential crisis" of the Conservative movement. He states that they are losing members at the rate of 2,000/month, and have fallen from the largest of the three denominations to second place.
He suggests that they must re-invent themselves, which they have started to do, in my opinion, with the synaplex concept, and the admission of gay Rabbis, whatever your feelings on that might be. The end of the waffling is a good thing for the movement, even if it is not what some want.
Additionally, Shay suggests that we need to have more children. He says that even if we factor in the Ultra-orthodox, we are replacing ourselves at a rate of 1.2. In 50 years, that leads to a 50% reduction in the population.
Shay has a total of "10 planks", the others I will not go into here. Feel free to read his book. On this holiday of Freedom, he paints a scary picture of the future of our people, who, according to him, will not be here in force in 50 years if we don't do something to change the current trend.

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