The 1990’s have witnessed a growing anxiety among Jews about the continuity and survival of Judaism and Jewish life in America. As an anthropologist and a rabbi, I have been able to evaluate American Jewish life both as a student of cultural interaction and as a participant’observer. From these perspectives it becomes clear that Jewish life and culture can be fully understood only by considering the influence upon them of neighboring non—Jewish cultures, whether that of ancient Alexandria, Kaifeng (China), or America. Jews came to America, found a political and moral culture compatible with their own, and embraced it with singular enthusiasm.Virtually all aspects of American Jewish life illustrate the tendency of Jews to adapt to the surrounding culture. Our religious denominations and the American ‘Jewish’ family demonstrate this vividly. In the ‘Jewish’ family, the accelerating rate of intermarriage (5 percent in 1920, 52 percent in 1994), the declining incidence of conventional marriage, the increase of divorce. and the decrease of fertility (Jews are not reproducing themselves), mark a yielding of traditional Jewish values to the tide of secular hedonism which “pervasively swamps” American society. The “most striking” conclusion of the Brandeis Report (1992) is that many intermarried families are unlikely to produce a “new generation connected to Judaism and the Jewish people.”Some distinguished social scientists believe that many American Jews will drift into a “painless assimilation.” Yet it remains an anthropological axiom that the future cannot be accurately foretold. In a world of rapid, cataclysmic change, no one can conﬁdently declare what the future holds for the American Jews and their Judaism.
Hardcover: 188 pages
Publisher: The Jerusalem Publishing House; 1St Edition edition (1998)