The Choices of a New Generation

By now you may have read about the recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that found a remarkable amount of shifting between individuals’ current religion/denomination and that of their birth. If you haven’t yet, there’s a general article about it on NPR’s website. For the Jewish angle, an excellent article by Sue Fishkoff of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Both pieces link to the study’s website itself, which you can read by clicking here.

What does the study mean to us, in terms of the Jewish future? Dr. Gary Tobin wrote a recent op-ed that I think sums it up beautifully:

Some rabbis do a great job in dealing with potential converts; many do not. Our synagogues often are less welcoming than we think. And our newspapers, sermons and sociological literature are filled with hysterical reprimands and dire predictions about the demise of the Jews that result from gentiles breaking through our traditional walls. How welcoming do we think it is when we say we wish our sons or daughters would have married someone else, but as long as you are here, we will try and be nice to you?

We have a theology that has no intermediary between the individual and God. That is appealing. We have a set of daily, monthly and yearly rituals that provide guidance and purpose. That is appealing. We have rich liturgy, beautiful prayers, deep roots in Israel, a strong communal system. All appealing. By being attractive to others, we will also be more attractive to born Jews. What are we afraid of?


  1. Syncretism, which destroys the whole thing.

    Comment by Dave — March 9, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

  2. is Gary Tobin the only person who thinks that we as Jews are digging an even larger hole for ourselves by maintaining this attitude of hiding behind a wall to keep everyone else out? no, he isn’t. but he is one of the few people who is brave enough to bring it to our attention.

    we do all we can to instill strong identities into our communities. we should continue to do the same even when intermarriage occurs. where conversion is concerned, i think more should be done as far as attracting potential converts. Judaism has a lot to offer both its born-followers as well as those who are new to it. but discouraging conversion (as was done in the old days) or making people jump through hoops as to why they want to convert isn’t going to help.

    Comment by h. — March 10, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

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