Assimilation: Fight it? Accept it?
We asked five contributors to answer the question above in response to this article. See Joannie Tansky’s response below.
See Jessi Pollock’s piece here.
See Adam Moscoe’s response here.
See Jackie Luffman’s response here.
See Rabbi Goldstein’s response here.
In the inaugural debate hosted by CIJA, we were asked to comment on two things: The Pew survey on American Jews and a follow-up article entitled American Jews Are Secular, Intermarried, and Assimilated – Great news! by Gabriel Roth.
Truthfully, there’s not that much to debate. The Pew survey was skewed because they did not include the Chabad Lubavitch movement in their numbers. They account for many thousands of Jews, men and women, who have returned to their Jewish roots, and they were not taken into account in the survey.
Roth’s article is a sad commentary on the lives of people who, through no fault of their own, are simply unaware of the precious the gift G-d bestowed upon them – their Judaism.
…”And as an intermarried Jewish nonbeliever, I think it’s time we anxious Jews stopped worrying and learned to love our assimilated condition—even if it means that our children call themselves half-Jewish and our grandchildren don’t consider themselves Jews at all.”
First a statement of fact: There is no such thing as being ‘half-Jewish’. One either is or is not Jewish. In order to be a Jew one must be born of a Jewish mother. (See: Maimonides, Hilchot Issurei Biah chapter 15, par. 4; Tractate Kiddushin 68:2; Deuteronomy 7:4.)
In his paragraph above, Roth sounds like he’s trying to come to terms what he has done – married a non-Jew and produced a daughter who is not Jewish. Later in life, she will be able to decide if she would like to convert to Judaism, but that will be a choice made when she is an adult. Roth, however, is doing her a great disservice now and somehow assuaging his own guilt by telling her she’s ‘half-Jewish’. It just ain’t so.
He is also waxing melancholy in the latter part of the paragraph, cognizant of the fact that he’s the last in line of Jews in his family and that his grandchildren will not be Jewish. He will never admit it openly, but deep down he knows that it is a very sad commentary on his own life that he is the one who severed the over three thousand year old chain of his ancestors.
Are we facing challenges like assimilation? Yes.
Are we dealing with men and women like Roth who question their essential identity? Yes.
And here is where I differ with Roth and the Pew survey. As a Torah-observant woman I believe and have a deep faith that there is G-d in the world and it is He who runs it. Lest one think that life is perfect after that statement, in this world it is not.
Do I always like the outcome of events in my life? No.
Do I sometimes get angry with G-d? Yes.
Do I believe in His Torah? Yes.
Do believe blindly? No.
I am an intelligent, well-read, educated woman who has lived both sides of the fence, been there – done that and realized that to allow Torah to guide my life and the lives of my family is a gift that will stand the test of time – eternally.
In the end, no matter what the ‘naysayers’ think or write or try to push in the media, the Jewish people are an eternal people. There are many sources for this, amongst them Genesis 17: 7: I will establish My covenant between Me and you and between your descendants after you throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant, to be to you for a G-d and to your descendants after you.
We come full circle back to the ‘debate’. And I reiterate there is no debate.
What one chooses to do with their Judaism is entirely up to them. But trying to convince others that we are a people who are disappearing is to foment a colossal fabrication. And that is something that should not go unanswered.
Countless places in the writing of the prophets.
Some examples: Isaiah 54:10; Jeremiah 32:40; Psalms 105:10.