Saturday, November 05, 2005

Conservative Werthieimer excoriates Reform

They're starting to speak out!


The situation is examined with alarm and unusual bluntness in Commentary, the American Jewish Committee magazine, by Rabbi Jack Wertheimer. He's the provost and professor of American Jewish history at New York's Jewish Theological Seminary, and he's among the ablest analysts of U.S. Jewish trends.
Some of the research about American Jewry that Wertheimer cites:
Jewish women bear far fewer children than other Caucasians, and not enough to offset the death rate.
• Only liberal Protestants have a higher average age than Jews.
• In 2006, Israel's Jewish population is expected to exceed that in the United States for the first time.
• At least half of Jews marry non-Jews, so "Jewish women wishing to marry confront a shrinking pool of potential Jewish mates," and they increasingly marry Gentiles.
• The National Study of Youth and Religion reported this year that Jewish teens rank lowest of all groups in religious identification and practice. (Youths "well understand their parents' priorities -- and live them out," Wertheimer comments.)
Plunging into highly disputed territory, he excoriates Reform Jews for making matters worse by tolerating alternative definitions of the family that violate Jewish tradition, especially same-sex couples -- a brewing issue in his own Conservative branch of Judaism.
Jewish officials apparently assume "acceptance and encouragement of every kind of 'family arrangement' will ensure that Jewish life will thrive. This is not only a gross distortion of Judaism, it is palpably false," he contends.
Wertheimer especially targets the Reform rabbinate's 1998 "Statement on Human Sexuality," which accepts multiple meanings of the family that occur in current secular culture, including single parenting and unwed couples living together, as well as gay and lesbian households.
The rabbis did not encourage marriage, he complains, and they never noted that in Jewish tradition this is the context for sexual expression and family life.
There's a similar debate about intermarriage.
Many Jewish leaders say it's a blessing, on the grounds that the Jewish partner can raise children in the faith and "inclusiveness, pluralism and a welcoming atmosphere" will attract converts, Wertheimer says.
Almost three-fourths of children raised in intermarried families marry non-Jews themselves and only 4 percent of the next generation raise their children as Jews. As a result, he predicts a strong likelihood that the number of Jewish children will soon drop sharply from the already low levels.
Despite the accumulating evidence, Wertheimer writes, Jewish community organizations are "mostly in denial" about what's occurring.
The explanations for low birth rates include Jews' relatively high economic status, levels of advanced education, late ages for marriage and prevalence of working women. Many conclude that, realistically, American Jewish decline is inevitable.
Countering that attitude of fate and acceptance, however, is the experience of Orthodox Judaism. Though Orthodoxy is far smaller than the Reform or Conservative branches, Orthodox Jews are raising more children than are those in either of the other two branches.
The results of the overall trends, Wertheimer concludes, are spiritually bereft children, lonesome Jewish singles and damage "to the integrity of Judaism and to two millennia of Jewish preachment."

Well said.
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 6:16 PM


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