His epiphany occurred when Rabbi Lau started talking about the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) from the perspective of a Jew who survived the Holocaust. That study, said Rabbi Weber, had some bright spots. It noted that if 100 Charedim that have 6.72 children per family and a low intermarriage rate, it will produce 3,401 Jewish descendants after 4 generations. 100 Centrists with their average 3.39 children per family and equally low intermarriage rate will produce 434 Jewish descendants in that time.
Sadly, 100 Conservative Jews with their average 1.74 children per family and 32% intermarriage rate will only produce 29 Jewish descendants. Reform Jews with their 1.36 children per family and intermarriage rate of 46% will produce 10 Jewish descendants; and secular Jews with their 1.29 children per family and their 49% intermarriage rate will produce only 7 Jewish descendants.
Now I don’t know how accurate these numbers are. Nor do I necessarily believe in linear projections – since trends can change for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is an increasing dropout rate among observant Jewry. But I do think that in a general way, it is a fair assumption that Judaism will mostly survive in increasing numbers and percentages via those of us who are observant.
I don’t mean to sound triumphalist. I am not and am in fact saddened that so many Jews will be lost after only 4 generations. But I mention this statistic for the same reason Rabbi Weber does. We have a responsibility to unite and to try and change that trend. When it comes to Jewish survival all of our Hashkafic differences are trivial and irrelevant, says Rabbi Weber. I could not agree more. Furthermore we can all learn from each other. Every community has its strengths and weaknesses. I only wish that message would enter the hearts of the dividers.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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