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Jewish Future Will Thrive on Devotion, Not Demographics

There was an article in the Chicago Sun-Times with the above title, basically saying our goal shouldn’t simply be to survive — it should be to thrive! It goes on to say:

“Though a lot of contemporary Jewish leaders are worried about our future, our own past suggests we’ll be just fine. It’s not about numbers, and it never has been. Devotion, not distribution, always has been our hallmark as a people.

“Two thousand years ago, in the small village of Yavneh, a group of rabbis boldly transformed the Temple-based religion they’d inherited into the Judaism we observe today. While a tiny minority of the general population, the Jews of Muslim Spain generated a Golden Age during which some of the greatest and most innovative Jewish thinkers, mystics and poets emerged and influenced medieval society for generations.

“Size doesn’t matter. What matters is creativity, courage, and commitment. And while commitment has always been a problem (and is, arguably, even more of one today), pockets of dedicated Jews are actively engaged in new and creative approaches to Jewish life all across the country, from Jewish wilderness adventures to the recovery of lost but still potent rituals and practices.

“So why is our leadership obsessed with data, with calculating how many potential Jewish babies are lost each year because of intermarriage or how many Jewish adults slip away as a result of assimilation? If we had a better grasp of our history — and the insight to reject the warped and inaccurate caricature of the Jewish experience as little more than one calamity after another — then we could refocus our time, energy and resources on what really matters: developing a dynamic and robust community.

“What best defines us has always been qualitative rather than quantitative. Jews have encountered many obstacles, and we have surmounted them, primarily, through fidelity and innovation. To take a seasonal example, Judah Maccabi and his band of brothers — a miniscule guerilla force compared to the Hellenist army — defeated their occupiers and rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem because of their imaginative, unconventional tactics, as well as their faith and fierce determination.”

My Take on This

I partially agree with this article, insofar as it says small dedicated groups of Jews have made the difference in our history. That can be seen at the micro level, because everyone knows it is always a small group in each synagogue that keeps things running and happening. However, volume also matters. Synagogues couldn’t thrive without the largely-inactive larger membership. By the same token, on the macro level, the loss of Jewish voters and donors is a risk to continued support American political support for Israel. So, we need the active and dedicated few, and we need the volume as well. Something really needs to be done to stop the attrition in our volume.

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One thought on “Jewish Future Will Thrive on Devotion, Not Demographics

  1. Andi on May 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Call me wind because I am asboluetly blown away.

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