Time for Straight-Talk about Assimilation

September 23, 2009

Soure: The Forward


JTS historian Jack Wertheimer, in a Jewish Daily Forward opinion piece, asks why a recent Israeli television advertisement lamenting assimilation in the Diaspora sparked a firestorm of criticism, given that "there is a large kernel of truth to its claims". It should instead stimulate a serious discussion on the relationship between intermarriage and assimilation and examine "ways to build Jewish social capital and draw in disengaged Jews".


Wertheimer writes that "While the [MASA] ad may have been clumsy in its execution, its central point is essentially correct: Large numbers of Jews around the world are disconnected from any Jewish communal activities."


He points out that there is no doubt that "the Jewish people is suffering an erosion of its engaged membership .. it is clear that vast populations of American Jews are steering clear of organized Jewish life."


He claims that there is a large kernel of truth in the claims made by the MASA ad as: " The majority of intermarried families raise their children in a faith other than Judaism or in two faiths or no faith at all; not surprisingly, when they reach adulthood, most of those offspring do not identify as Jews."


Wertheimer notes that: "Indeed, wherever Jews are a minority community, intermarriage is a major factor in the contraction of the Jewish population." And then asks: "How, then, does it serve Jewish group interests to silence all discussion about the relationship between intermarriage and assimilation?"

Updated: Oct. 01, 2009