There must have been more than a dozen pieces written about the Pew study detailing the end of Judaism in America. Jeffrey Woolf wrote a brilliant piece. There have been excellent pieces written by Shmuley Boteach, Melanie Xanttopoulos , SR Hewitt, Leah Bieler, Donniel Hartman, and others. My favorite was from Benji Lovitt and is entitled, New poll: US Jewry going to hell in a handbasket.
I have my two cents to add because I think that everybody is missing the real issue.
Most of my Jewish friends in the USA are raising children who don’t care about their Judaism. This is in spite of the fact that my Jewish friends are the most committed Jews in the Orlando community. I am talking presidents of synagogues and Jewish day schools and Jewish Federations and Hillel and on and on. I only walk in the highest circles.
I am very involved in the teenage Jewish community. I volunteered as a teacher in the Jewish community for 10 years. I know why teens don’t care about their Judaism.
We stopped teaching our children that Jews are the Chosen People.
If anything, we have rejected the very idea of being chosen. We have an aversion to the concept of a chosen people. It stinks of superiority.
In the place of teaching about the relationship between God and the Jewish people, we talk about Jewish values. Judaism has great values. But you don’t need to be a Jew to have great values. That should be patently obvious to anybody raised in the USA. None of our national heroes are Jews; from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr. These were great men. These men had great values. These men were not Jews.
The Jewish kids I taught are great kids. They are brilliant and motivated and compassionate. But Judaism is not important to them. Being a good person is what is important to them. It is not a bad thing. It is just not enough.
Jews need to embrace the idea that we are the Chosen People. Chosen means special. It does not mean better. Every human being needs to be good. Jews have a special role to play. We have a role given to us by God in exchange for being freed from slavery in Egypt. We are meant to be a nation of priests; a holy nation.
This is Judaism 101. If we fail this class, we better find a different major.
Jews in the USA have spent the past few generations trying to show that we are not different than everyone else. We are trying to blend in. I don’t blame us. Our past hasn’t been so pleasant when we have been separated out for special treatment.
But when we deny that we are different, when we deny that we are chosen, we deny our special relationship to God. We deny the need for Jewish people.
If you want to save Judaism in the USA, embrace the fact that Jews are special and teach your children that they are special as well.