It’s a tradition to ask friends and family for forgiveness, before standing on Yom Kippur before the Lord of Hosts, asking to be written into the New Year for health and happiness.
In the Jewish year ending the eve of September 29th, I’ve been involved in disputes with a number of parties. By and large, these disputes have revolved around the nature and continuity of Diaspora Jewry, and what if anything should be done about it.
I have maintained that the childbearing-aged Jewry of our time is studying so long, marrying so late and have so few children that our numbers will decline. Taking intermarriage further into account, the decline is so steep that for all intents and purposes non-Orthodox Jewry outside Israel will disappear.
“Delayed marriage and the challenge of infertility are just two reasons that non-Orthodox Jews have fewer children. Mix these perhaps with fears of rising anti-Semitism, anxiety over the future, and the tremendous cost of raising non-Orthodox Jewish children — day school, Jewish camp, synagogue membership, Israel trips, youth group, kosher food, and more. Then add the rising costs of health care, the economic realities of retirement, and non-Orthodox Jews’ desire to lead middle-class, upper-middle-class, and even upper-class lifestyles with luxury homes, country club memberships and vacations, and it becomes easy to deduce why non-Orthodox couples are having fewer and fewer children.”
As the New Year dawns, I am in my 71st year. I never studied theology, but was an economics major.
Economics, the professor said on my very first day of class, is the study of how an individual – or a society – makes do, allocating the limited amount of what he or they have, among the unlimited number of desires.
Economics is the most un-religious of sciences. You have so much time, so much money. Make choices.
When a rabbi asks me to understand “non-Orthodox Jews’ desire to lead middle-class, upper middle class and even upper class lifestyles with luxury homes, country club memberships and vacations,” at the expense of Jewish continuity, I won’t. It’s a choice which if widely followed sticks a knife into the heart of Diaspora Jewry.
So, the young among us want to live middle class, upper middle class and upper class lifestyles rather than have sufficient numbers of offspring to replace themselves? It’s the definition of narcissism. What’s the point of a six-bedroom house with one or two kids in it?
We who lived in bunk beds in two-bedroom homes and drove used cars so that they could have summer camps and college degrees don’t have to hear this. Who speaks for the Jews not born?
Another group of clergy members that I will not apologize to are those affiliated with Sholom Hartman Institute President Donniel Hartman, championing his book entitled, “Putting Gd Second.”
The Amazon listing asks, “Why have the monotheistic religions failed to produce societies that live up to their ethical ideals? A prominent rabbi answers this question by looking at his own faith and offering a way for religion to heal itself.”
First of all, I believe that America, founded under Judeo-Christian bases, has produced a society living up to its ethical ideas. It has brought more freedom, more wealth and more happiness to more people than any other nation in human history.
Amazon continues, “Hartman identifies the primary source of religion’s moral failure in what he terms its “autoimmune disease,” or the way religions so often undermine their own deepest values. While God obligates the good and calls us into its service, Hartman argues, God simultaneously and inadvertently makes us morally blind.”
I don’t care how many learning sessions Rabbis Starr or Hartman conduct, this is hogwash. Horse manure.
Another group of rabbis, perhaps beginning with Richard Rubenstein, author of the book “After Auschwitz,” maintain that any Covenant between The Lord of Hosts and the Children of Israel (yes, that Covenant) was abrogated by the Lord Himself. Here is what Rubenstein told The Jewish Ledger in August, 2017, on the 50th anniversary of his book.
“JS: Does this mean that God’s Covenant with the Jews post-Holocaust no longer exists?RR: It means that the Covenant with the Jews – the special status claimed for the Jews as the Chosen People, conditioned on their obeying the Holy Law or being punished for disobeying – was no longer credible. What worked for Josiah is not likely to work after Auschwitz.
Rabbi Starr joins Rabbis Rubenstein and Yitz Greenberg in this view. The Jewish Virtual Library says of R. Greenberg:
Greenberg… states that the authority of the covenant was broken in the Holocaust, but the Jewish people, released from its obligations, chose voluntarily to renew it again. Greenberg writes, “We are in the age of the renewal of the covenant. God is no longer in a position to command, but the Jewish people are so in love with the dream of redemption that it volunteered to carry out the mission.”
This is how a religion becomes a social justice movement. The Left knows it. Here are the words of Batya Unger Sargon, features editor of The (Formerly Jewish) Forward:
Liberal Jews bemoan the fact that many in their ranks are marrying non-Jews, and that their grandchildren may not identify as Jews. In fact, blessedly freed of the anti-Semitism that ostracized us, what liberal Jews are really worried about is the fact that their children will choose not to identify as Jews. This does not mean that Jewish continuity is under threat; thanks to the Orthodox and the Hassidic, it’s a foregone conclusion.
And herein lies the paradox of Jewish continuity. Liberal Jews tend to speak of the personal choice to identify as an American rather than as a Jew — a choice granted to us by the liberties we have been given for the first time as Diaspora Jews — as though a genocide were approaching, or as though we are being swallowed up by a black mass of Orthodoxy. But we have eschewed Orthodoxy to pursue personal liberties — and it is that belief in liberty that this longing for more babies betrays.
We have to ask: Wouldn’t we rather our children chose not to identify as Jews than to be forced to do so, either by anti-Semitism or by internal pressure?
These people – Aaron Starr, Donniel Hartman, Yitz Greenberg, and Batya Unger-Sargon – are not working for continuity of the Jewish people. Quite the opposite.
I will not apologize to them. Perhaps I should apologize for them.