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Letters the Week of October 17, 2013
Editor’s Note: A slew of readers responded to our recent stories and columns about the Pew study on American Jewry. We will occasionally be using this column to print these reactions. Send your views to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solution: Young Jews Must Marry Young Jews
As your guest columnists Andres Spokoiny and Yossi Prager recognize, the Pew study on American Jews ought to be a wake-up call to the organized Jewish community (Opinions: “Pew Points the Way Toward More Avenues to Jewish Life,” “How to Inspire a Jewish Future in America,” Oct. 10).
What seems to be missing in their analyses is the recognition that non-Orthodox Jews need to develop ways to get Jewish kids to marry other Jewish kids — at younger ages. The Orthodox community, whether it be identified as “ultra” or just “modern,” does have a well-structured marriage arrangement network that works.
Sure, kids today — or even of the last half-century — may bridle at the notion of being fixed up, but the truth is that the arranged-marriage system, modified to some degrees by the Orthodox to have the kids meet and find each other acceptable before any talk of commitment, does appear to work.
In the past, we have relied on informal, unstructured mechanisms like relatives and neighborhoods. Unfortunately, there are few if any remaining “Jewish neighborhoods” in this city and our divorce-on-demand system has demolished most families as ways to develop relationships.
Other than the Orthodox, we live in a secular Jewish society with very few ways to help children meet others. Today, kids are exposed to a world that, at least in the metropolitan areas of the United States, is largely uninterested in religion. It does not have any overtly anti-Semitic feeling whatsoever — a feeling that no doubt fostered, if not compelled, a forced sense of continued Jewish identify in the past. The days of “us vs. them” are slipping away, if they are not already gone.
Years ago, we at least had Jewish neighborhoods — “Chelsea Beach,” “Har Zion’s street mob at High Holidays” and “the Hot Shoppes on North Broad.” Synagogue college outreach programs and Hillel do continue to provide some avenues for dating, as does J Date, but I sense that today these are not for the majority.
Without such mechanisms, the non-Orthodox Jewish community in this country will be a shrunken shell of itself — if not within 20 years, certainly by mid-century.
With all the money that’s raised for worthwhile Jewish causes, including Israel, there has to be a way to channel a significant portion of it to develop ways to fix Jewish kids up with other Jewish kids in a way that’s attractive and not embarrassing.
Surely, with Jews dominating the Nobel Prize announcements as well as the teaching staffs of many universities, there have to be some thinkers who can come up with a solution that deals with the root of the problem — namely, fostering Jewish marriages.
Without that, in a matter of years, programs like Birthright will not even have an audience from which to draw participants.
Jerome Hoffman | Broomall