“Our grandparents prayed for a melting pot. What they got instead was a meltdown!” - Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, Founder, National Jewish Outreach Program
As the year 2000 fast approaches, North America’s Jewish population faces a disturbing set of trends that threatens the viability of Judaism on this continent in the next century—The J2K (Jewish 2000) Problem. Unlike the persecution that the Jewish people have endured by the hands of others for over 3,000 years, Jews on this continent now face a “silent holocaust” stemming from within their very own communities and their very own households.
Today, of the approximately 6 million Jews in the United States, about 2 out of 3, either do not identify themselves Jewishly or maintain an affiliation with a synagogue. This staggering portrait of American Jewish life is perpetuated by a host of disturbing national trends, including a quickly growing rate of Jewish intermarriage, an extraordinary low birth rate, and a sharp increase in the number of children being raised as non-Jews.
In the past, Jews rallied together around a core of religious and ethnic traditions, such as synagogue affiliation, lighting of Shabbat candles and giving charity to Jewish institutions. These practices were first learned in the home and were enhanced over a lifetime of familial and communal interaction.
However today, North America’s Jewish population has experienced an internal breakdown of both the family unit and the concept of community, that have unified the Jewish people for so long. As these ancient practices and rituals disappear, so do the number of Jewish people on this continent who consider themselves Jewish. So powerful is this meltdown of Jewish life, that Judaism in America, as we have known it for the last 300 years, will likely cease to exist in the new millennium.
Consider the following statistics*:
Jewish identity is declining sharply.
Of 5.6 million Jews, 2 million American Jews live in households identified as non-Jewish
60% of Jews below 40 years of age live in households identified as non-Jewish
20% of Jews over 60 years of age live in households identified as non-Jewish
Intermarriage rates are increasing dramatically.
Before 1965, 10% of Jews who married, did so outside the faith.
Since 1985, 52% of Jews who married have done so outside the faith.
Children are being raised as non-Jews.
1 million, or 54% of all American Jewish children under the age of 18 are being raised as non-Jews or with no religion.
Fertility Rates are not high enough to replenish the religion.
The average fertility rate of American Jewish women is 1.4 children per household. The replacement level is 2.1 children.
Less emphasis is being placed on a Jewish education.
In 1962, 540,000 Jewish children were attending afternoon weekend schools, and 60,000 were enrolled in day schools. By 1990, fewer than 240,000 Jewish children attended afternoon /weekend schools and 140,000 attended day schools.
NET LOSS—220,000 Jewish children.
Traditional Shabbat observance is extremely low.
Only 36% of Jewish households light the Shabbat Candles.
Of the population that consists of people who were born Jewish and are Jewish by choice, only 11% attend synagogue weekly.
* All Statistics taken from Council of Jewish Federations’ 1990 National Jewish Population Survey. This is the most comprehensive source of American Jewish data available
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