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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘intermarriage’

Good Bye, Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, and Kisses to the Little Gentiles

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

I adore Jon Stewart, have been watching him on Comedy Central since his very first Daily Show episode, when he was replacing Craig Kilborn. At that very first show, Stewart signaled his plan to become an influential voice on latenight TV by announcing—in Killborn’s face—that he was getting rid of most of the show’s silly stuff, like the clever and absurd 5-questions posed to the guest, and the rest of the rubber chicken gimmicks that endeared the show to its scant followers, but also kept it small. The only remnant from the Killborn era today is the “Moment of Zen” at the end of the show.

I also recall the moment in time when Stewart transformed himself from a very funny and exceptionally well read host of a fake news show to a moral force in America. It was in October, 2004, when he destroyed CNN’s “Crossfire.”

Stewart came out with both guns blazing, and in half an hour turned “Crossfire” hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson from fairly respected political talking heads into cantankerous buffoons. I cheered him, along with most of America, because, hey, we all love to see blood spilling on national television, but also because those two represented—precisely as Stewart put it—a class of verbal gladiators entangled in a tiresome string of daily clashes for the sake of fighting, not for, say, discovering and exploring ideas.

Poor Carlson, who looked so white, so upper class, and so pythonesque in his humiliation (the bowtie, remember his bowtie?), said something like: “Aren’t you supposed to be funny?” which sounded exactly like something Abe Lincoln would have said to John Wilkes Booth if he had better writers.

CNN canceled “Crossfire” practically that afternoon (or so it seemed), and although Stewart did not actually manage to change the way our cable news networks debate politics, he killed two of the most offensive practitioners, and that’s something.

I’m well aware of Jon Stewart’s faults as a host. He tends to cater with the freckled open face of a schoolgirl to left-wing guests, and comes prepared and biting to his encounters with right-wingers. He sometimes makes me gag when he applies his puckered lips to the less glorified side of the high and mighty. He had Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf pushing his book on the show and pitched him so many softballs, it started to look like an evening with the NAGAAA. Needless to say, murdering Benazir Bhutto did not come up.

The most troubling influence Jon Stewart—born in New York City to Marian and Donald Leibowitz—is on the cultural landscape of American Jews.

Stewart is probably the most popular Jewish man in America today. He’s also one of the top 10 men of any ethnic background. He is unabashedly Jewish, to many of us he is the ideal American Jew: aware of his ethnic identity but careful not to let it dominate his career; respects Jewish tradition but not to the point where non-Jews become uncomfortable (unlike, say, The Jewish Press). He has religious and traditional Jews on his writing staff, he promotes countless Jewish-identified entertainers, he is openly and proudly pro-Israel (albeit from his distinct political point of view—which is his prerogative). I can’t imagine anyone suggesting that Jon Stewart is bad for Jews.

Jon Stewart is bad for Jews.

Because he is so very sane, reasonable, moderate, benign, respectable and cheerful about Jewish and Israeli issues, he presents a model to be emulated – and therein lies the badness.

I hate to write the next few paragraphs, because they’re about a person’s private life which he has not done much to expose. I wouldn’t have dreamed of digging behind those bushes if not for the new study that’s being discussed by every Jewish media outlet in north America: the Pew “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” which suggested with the same breath that there are almost 7 million Jews living in America, and that many of them, and certainly the offspring of the vast majority of them, can’t really be considered Jewish.

A whopping 58% of Jews married between the years 2000 and 2013 have non-Jewish spouses. That’s up from 17% in 1970.

Woody Allen as a rabbi in "Annie Hall," using his Jewish heritage for the comic effect while, in reality, having precious little to do with anything Jewish.

Woody Allen as a rabbi in “Annie Hall,” using his Jewish heritage for the comic effect while, in reality, having precious little to do with anything Jewish.

What happened between 1970 and 2013? Jon Stewart happened. Obviously, I don’t mean the person Jon Stewart, who was only 8 in 1970, and probably not a major influence yet on Jewish life in America. But the paradigm of the successful, charismatic Jew, who is unafraid to be identified as Jewish while not going crazy with the Jew thing – that paradigm was well in the making. Allan Stewart Konigsberg, aka Woody Allen, comes to mind. And, alas—inevitably—that paradigm also turned the previously shocking marrying of a gentile spouse more and more commonplace, until it is what the vast majority of Jews are doing.

That’s not marriage, that’s ethnic cleansing.

From Wikipedia:

In 2000, Stewart married Tracey Lynn McShane, his girlfriend of four years. The couple met on a blind date set up by a production assistant on Stewart’s film, Wishful Thinking. On June 19, 2001, Stewart and his wife filed a joint name change application and legally changed both of their surnames to “Stewart.” He proposed to his wife through a personalized crossword puzzle created with the help of Will Shortz, the crossword editor at The New York Times. The couple had their first child, a son named Nathan Thomas Stewart (after Stewart’s grandfather), in July 2004. Their second child, a daughter, Maggie Rose Stewart, was born in February 2006. They own a cat named Stanley and two pit bull terriers, Monkey and Shamsky (named after former Major League Baseball player Art Shamsky).

What can possibly be wrong with the above paragraph? From this Jewish person’s narrow, nationalistic point of view, what’s wrong there is that only one out of the three persons in the perfect American family being described is Jewish.

(Obviously, I apologize if Mrs. Stewart quietly went and converted to Judaism, just to make me eat my hat. But you understand I’m discussing her and her husband as paradigms.)

The Pew study breaks this tragedy into subject matters and numbers, but the crux of it is that the Stewarts and the Jewish nation are in the process of parting company. They, along with several million other Americans of Jewish descent, are disappearing into the gushing river of history, while the rest of us are left on our own once again, to continue the divine adventure begun in the mid 1200s BCE in Egypt.

Here’s a curious fact: the verse in the Torah describing the Israelites’ exit from their house of bondage in Egypt goes: “V’chamushim alu Bnei Israel m’eretz Mitzrayim,” which is translated straight-forwardly as “The Israelites went up out of Egypt equipped for battle.” But the classical commentator Rashi offers an alternative reading of the word “chamushim,” which can also mean one-fifth, meaning that four fifths of the Israelite slaves did not follow Moses’ instructions, did not grab a lamb, did not slaughter it, did not smear its blood on their door posts, and did not roast and eat it, and so they perished along with the Egyptians during the plague of Darkness.

Based on Rashi’s suggestion, as well as based on Jewish history, a loss of 58% of a Jewish community to the larger culture is an exceptionally optimistic outcome – it should have been 80%. Indeed, four fifths was the common rate of intermarriage and cultural merging for European Jewry before WW2 and again, today, 70 years after the war. Give it another 30 years and we’ll hit the historically proper 80% in north America as well.

So that, in the end, Jon Stewart is not to blame for America’s demographic holocaust (Too dramatic? Maybe go with “demographic catastrophe?” Demographic anguish?” Nah – I’m sticking with the H word). He merely represents its most highly focused arrowhead.

He is the schpitz  of assimilation, to use a Yiddish word, since peppering one’s speech with Yiddish is so adorably neuvo-Jew these days.

Majority of American Jews are Intermarried

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

NEW YORK (JTA) — First the good news: There are a lot more Jews in America than you may have thought — an estimated 6.8 million, according to a new study.

Now the bad news: A growing proportion of American Jews are unlikely to raise their children Jewish or connect with Jewish institutions. The proportion of Jews who say they have no religion and are Jewish only on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture is growing rapidly, and two-thirds of them are not raising their children Jewish at all.

Overall, the intermarriage rate is at 58 percent, up from 43 percent in 1990 and 17 percent in 1970.

The data on Jewish engagement come from the Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews, a telephone survey of 3,475 Jews nationwide conducted between February and June and released on Tuesday.

The population estimate, released Monday, comes from a synthesis of existing survey data conducted by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

While the estimate is likely to be a matter of some debate by demographers and social scientists, it is the Pew study that offers an in-depth portrait that may influence Jewish policymaking for years to come.

Among the more notable findings of the Pew survey:

* Thirty-two percent of Jews born after 1980 — the so-called millennial generation — identify as Jews of no religion, compared to 19 percent of baby boomers and just 7 percent of Jews born before 1927. Overall, 22 percent of U.S. Jews describe themselves as having no religion, meaning they are much less connected to Jewish organizations and much less likely to be raising their children Jewish.

* The emotional attachment to Israel has held steady over the last decade, with 69 percent of respondents saying they feel attached or very attached to Israel. Forty-three percent of respondents said they had been to Israel.

* Far more respondents said having a good sense of humor was essential to their Jewish identity than observing Jewish law — 42 percent compared to 19 percent.

* Approximately one-quarter of Jews said religion is very important in their lives, compared to 56 percent among Americans generally.

Among Jewish denominations, the Reform movement remains the largest with 35 percent of respondents identifying as Reform. The second-largest group is Jews of no denomination (30 percent), followed by Conservative (18 percent) and Orthodox (10 percent).

As with other studies, the Pew study found that the Orthodox share of the American Jewish population is likely to grow because Orthodox Jews tend to be younger and have larger families than Jews generally.

In addition, while past surveys showed about half of respondents raised as Orthodox were no longer Orthodox, the Orthodox retention rate appears to be improving, with just a 17 percent falloff among 18- to 29-year-olds.

Most denominational switching among American Jews, however, remains in the direction of less traditional Judaism.

In the Pew survey, 90 percent of those who identified as Jews by religion and are raising children said they are raising them Jewish. By comparison, less than one-third of those who identified themselves as Jews of no religion are raising their kids as Jewish.

Among inmarried Jews, 96 percent are raising their children as Jews by religion (as opposed to ethnicity), compared to 45 percent among intermarried Jews.

On Jewish observance, some 70 percent of respondents to the Pew survey said they participated in a Passover seder in 2012 and 53 percent said they fasted for all or part of Yom Kippur that year. The numbers represent declines from the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey conducted by the Jewish Federations of North America, which found seder participation rates at 78 percent and Yom Kippur fasting at 60 percent.

While most of those surveyed by Pew said they felt a strong connection to Israel, and 23 percent reported having visited the Jewish state more than once, the respondents expressed significant reservations about the current Israeli government’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

Forty-four percent said West Bank settlement construction hurts Israel’s security interests, and only 17 percent said continued settlement construction is helpful to Israeli security. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said the Israeli government is making a sincere peace effort with the Palestinians.

Intermarriage Rarely Has a Happy Ending

Thursday, April 4th, 2013
While I was reading Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope by Harold Berman and Gayle Redlingshafer Berman, I had to keep reminding myself that although I know quite a few couples with similar stories, the percentage of intermarried couples who fully embrace Torah Judaism is negligible.

Harold and Gayle Berman have put together a wonderful book about their relationship and certainly a surprise for them  discovery and adoption of a Torah observant Jewish life.  It’s written as a series of letter to each other, and I strongly appreciate the decision to give each of them a different font.  That makes it much easier to keep track of who has written what, even though their voices and stories are quite different.

It’s important to read their book as a book by intelligent, sincere people who due to a principled intellectual and spiritual curiosity found themselves both embracing Judaism.

It truly was love at first sight – even though Gayle was the Minister of Music in a Texas mega-church and Harold was a secular Jew from New York. Fate brought them together. But destiny had something else in mind. From the Bible Belt to northernmost Russia to the heart of the Jewish world, Doublelife is really about the journey within, to discover who we are and who we are meant to be. [Read More]

I think it’s dangerous for troubled, concerned parents and relatives of Jews marrying non-Jews to get too much comfort from the Berman’s story.  In the vast majority of cases, Judaism is lost to the children and grandchildren etc. of intermarried couples, even when the descendants are Jewish by Jewish Law.

I don’t see their bringing up the Purim story of Esther as historic justification for intermarriage.

The Book of Esther is a book of secrets. Esther is also a book of interfaith marriage, one of the secrets the story’s heroine keeps even from her husband. Esther, the Jew, marries the Gentile King Ahasuerus, putting her in the ideal position to save her people from the wicked Haman. Some have interpreted the story as a Biblical endorsement, offering ancient proof that two faiths within one marriage not only works, but can be a positive societal force. (preview)

I studied Megillat Esther at Matan with Atara Snowbell for an entire school year, and at no point did we come to that conclusion.  Queen Esther is revered by Bible scholars for her sacrifice, giving up a normal Jewish Life for the sake of the Jewish People living in the Persian Empire.  Her children did not live as Jews, and King Achashverosh certainly didn’t convert to Judaism.

This criticism doesn’t mean that I don’t find the book well-written and compelling.  I just find their reassurances that intermarriage may not be the end of Jewish life to be misleading. I certainly enjoyed reading Doublelife and do recommend it, but please don’t think that there is anything typical about the Bermans.  They are two extraordinary people who tell their story beautifully.  I wish there were more people like them.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Cox Celebrates Black History Month with Jewish Intermarriage

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Cox, the cable communications giant, is celebrating Black History Month “by highlighting culturally relevant programming available On Demand and participating in various celebrations and events across the country.”

A PR thingie was sent out by Cox, listing, among many other entertainment options available on its Lifetime channel, the movie Twist of Faith (Feb. 10 – 28), “a love story about a Christian single mother and an NYC Orthodox Jewish man, whose mutual love of music and singing draws them together.”

You know I couldn’t resist that one, so I started searching the Internet (so you won’t have to, as my friend Jamil is fond of saying). You should know there are several movies out there with the same memorable title, or with slight twists (like Twist of Fate). But I finally got the full Lifetime synopsis, and, how could I not -– a clip.

The Lifetime Original Movie “Twist of Faith,” starring Toni Braxton, Mykelti Williamson and David Julian Hirsh:

“In Twist of Faith,” the fictional, cross-cultural, music infused love story, tells the tale of Jacob Fisher (Hirsh), an Orthodox Jewish Cantor and amateur songwriter from Brooklyn, New York, who witnesses the senseless murder of his wife and three children. Catatonic, Jacob walks out on his Jewish mourning ritual, leaving behind his Jewish garments, wallet and keys.

Seriously? The guy had a Jewish wallet and Jewish keys? Them Jews is mighty materialistic… Anyway, the text proceeds:

Abandoning his identity, he wanders aimlessly, hoping somehow to understand his tragedy. Fortuitously, he lands in Brent, Alabama (population 2,500), where he is embraced by Nina (Braxton), a single mother and the lead singer of a small gospel choir, her Uncle Moe (Williamson) and their gospel community who help him re-examine his life. While music brings Nina and Jacob together, they try to make sense of his past and their possible future.

And they make Gospel music together happily ever after – the end.

This thing sounds like train wreck of the month, if you ask me. I just hope none of you out there is planning to drink a shot of whiskey every time this movie makes a moronic faux pas about Yiddishkeit, because you’ll end up in a ditch, God forbid.

Study: Jewish Population Shrinking Outside Israel

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The global Jewish population grew by more than 88,000 people over the past year, and now stands at 13.75 million, according to a new study published y Professor Sergio DellaPergola of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Though the huge number of simchas is a boon to the Jewish people, it pales in comparison to the growth rate of the rest of the world.  While the Jewish population grew by 0.65% in 2012, the global population grew by almost double that – 1.26%.

According to the study, one out of every 514 people in the world is Jewish – less than 0.2% of the world population.

The report noted that the largest Jewish population in the world resides in Israel – 5.97 million, accounting for 43% of the world’s Jews.  5.46 million – 39% – live in the United States.  The number of Jews living outside of Israel shrunk by over 10,000 people, due to intermarriage and aliyah.

Intermarriage is a significant factor in US Jewish population rates, due to the fact that over 50% of Jews who married in the last year married outside the faith.

Facebook Stock Drop: Divine Blessing for Marc Zuckerberg

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

If a man is given a financial windfall at the end of his life, what reason does he have to change? How much enjoyment will he get out of it anyway? For an 85 year old, how great is the finest of steaks to you when your body can’t even digest it? If you just received a billion dollars, it could mean that for every good you did in this world, G-d just paid you back in full. When your time comes and the Heavenly Court measures your good deeds against the wrong you did, you will have no merit to your name. All of it was accounted for before your passing.

The Book of Deuteronomy warns of G-d rewarding a man to his end. This is what that refers to.

But what if a man is young? What if he makes a terrible mistake? What if this is a mistake he doesn’t even consider a bad choice? Does this person deserve to be taught a lesson in how to fix himself?

Hashem has just told His children, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Take a look at the most famous member of the People of the Book for 2012: Mark Zuckerberg.

On May 18 his company, Facebook, became a stock on the Nasdaq Exchange. Minutes after trading began the price of FB sailed to $45 a share, valuing Zuckerberg’s 603 million shares at a little more than $27 billion. He became wealthier than George Soros and Michael Bloomberg. Not bad for a twenty something from White Plains, New York.

On May 19 he did something the very same Book of Deuteronomy says a Jew can never do. He married a non-Jewish woman. Why is a Jew not allowed to marry out? Simple. G-d says so. It has nothing do with racism, superiority, exclusiveness, or anything else. One of the 613 Commandments the Creator of Heaven and Earth directs every Jew on Earth to marry another Jew.

Every instance of a Jewish man having relations with a non-Jewish woman is a sin so bad, nobody in Heaven can defend us. When our spouse dies, they go to a different part of the Next World. We don’t even have the consolation that in the afterlife we will see them — ever.

G-d could have allowed Mr. Zuckerberg to roll in his billions. He could have rewarded Mark to his end by not doing anything to help.

Instead, He sent him a tribulation of unprecedented magnitude.

From the moment Mark married a non-Jew, his finances tumbled. Facebook went from an IPO high of $45 a share to $18.03. Mark’s worth went from $27 billion, all his because he was single, to $10.9 billion – half claimable by his wife. His guaranteed assets of $5.45 bil are a whopping $21.5 billion less than what he started with.

It could get worse.

Analysts project Facebook to earn $.63 a share for 2013. The average price to earnings ratio for the Nasdaq 100 is 11.9. Multiply $.63 by 11.9 and you have a 2013 price target of $7.50, bringing Zuckerberg’s fortune down to $4.5 bil – half of which belongs to his wife.

I’ve heard of costly weddings before . . . .

This wasn’t a private lesson given to someone outside the public eye. This is the most well-known Jew on earth. His life is an open book for all of us to study. This act of love to wake up Mr. Zuckerberg also serves as an act of love for all of us. Even with “merely” $2 billion in the bank, he will not go hungry. He will not be wanting.

G-d acted to wake him up without putting him to sleep.

We spend all of our lives pursuing wealth, only to see it all go up in smoke. George Soros will die and his money will be parted from him. Mark Zuckerberg, a young man with a bright future, can easily fix his mistakes and rise to even greater heights. Wasn’t there a time in the 1990s when the once mighty Apple traded for $3 a share? Look at where it came from, how far it fell. See what it has become today.

Jewish Press Radio with Yishai Fleisher: In the Eyes of the Rebbe

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by popular guest Baruch Widen (commentator on Arab society and Arab Jewish relations) to discuss a book by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe) on settling the Land of Israel. Yishai and Widen dig into the phenomenon of young American Jews moving to the Land of Israel and how programs such as Birthright (Taglit) are actually decreasing the intermarriage rate among young Jews.

To download, right-click, and “Save Target As” HERE.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/jewish-press-radio-with-yishai-fleisher-in-the-eyes-of-the-rebbe/2012/06/03/

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