Thursday, October 17, 2013

Are you willing to settle for the status quo ?

We are faced with challenges of all kind throughout our lives. Sometimes we are faced with personal challenges that can cause us to do much reflecting and soul searching. Yet there are times that as a nation we must pause and reflect if the direction we are going in is viable or do the challenges that surround us threaten that.
I am not referring to the U.S Government shutdown that due to the intransigence of various elected officials left much of the federal government closed for nearly two weeks. That is probably worth exploring a different time. I would entitle that post – Are The Founding Fathers Rolling in their Graves?

I am referring to the much debated survey of American Jews that was released by the Pew Institute.
The proportion of Jews who say they have no religion and are Jewish only on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture is growing rapidly, and two-thirds of them are not raising their children Jewish at all.

Other notable findings were :
Overall, the intermarriage rate is at 58 percent, up from 43 percent in 1990 and 17 percent in 1970. Among non-Orthodox Jews, the intermarriage rate is 71 percent.

* Overall, 22 percent of U.S. Jews describe themselves as having no religion, and the survey finds they are much less connected to Jewish organizations and much less likely to be raising their children Jewish. Broken down by age, 32 percent of Jews born after 1980 — the so-called millennial generation — identify as Jews of no religion, compared to 19 percent of baby boomers and just 7 percent of Jews born before 1927.
* Emotional attachment to Israel has held steady over the last decade, with 69 percent of respondents saying they feel attached or very attached to Israel. Forty-three percent of respondents said they had been to Israel.
* Far more respondents said having a good sense of humor was essential to their Jewish identity than observing Jewish law — 42 percent compared to 19 percent.
* Approximately one-quarter of Jews said religion is very important in their lives, compared to 56 percent among Americans generally.
* Less than one-third of American Jews say they belong to a synagogue. Twenty-three percent of U.S. Jews say they attend synagogue at least once or twice a month, compared with 62 percent of U.S. Christians.
So my question is do we just accept this or can we actually do something about this? I am firmly believe this is the test of our generation. Those of us that are fortunate to appreciate the richness and beauty of Judaism should think long and hard about how we can make a positive difference in the lives of Jews who have not experienced the beauty of our heritage.
It all can begin with the action of an individual. If you have the opportunity to invite someone for a Shabbos meal – seize the moment. You never know how the dormant spark of another Jewish soul can be ignited when it is exposed to the beauty of a Shabbos table.
I think about this even more as we learn about Avraham in the weekly portion. If there was a Pew survey in his lifetime on this issue, it would have been even more depressing. After all there were less G-d fearing people in his generation than ours. Yet, he refused to surrender to the status quo and declared – I will make a meaningful difference in the world today  by reaching out to my fellow man and touching them with kindness and G-d’s values.
We have a choice to make. We can either just ignore the reality of our generation or we can declare ourselves to be aligned with Avraham and his legacy. In the battle between assimilation of U.S. Jewry and the will of the descendants of Avraham --- I am putting my money on the latter.

Please share your thoughts.

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