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Jews of all affiliations used to share much in common: love of Jewish culture, support for Israel, the fight against anti-Semitism, respect for ritual even if not practiced personally, and love of America. Little of this endures.

At least five tectonic shifts have occurred, all catastrophic:


1) Most Jews today are complete illiterate when it comes to Judaism, including Jewish texts, Jewish thought, Jewish ritual, and Jewish history. Why would anyone embrace Judaism and pass it on to his children if he knows approximately nothing?

2) The contemporary intermarriage rate among non-Orthodox Jews is colossal. The Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative movements originally surrendered to intermarriage; now they embrace it. Some claim that accepting intermarriage couples encourages them to choose a Jewish life, but that has proven to be a statistical farce – even if it may bolster membership and dues in the short run.

3) Disaffiliation has grown alarmingly. A plurality (soon to be a majority) of Jews do not join any synagogue, do not give charity to Jewish causes – in fact, do not meaningfully participate in Jewish life at all, publically or personally.

4) There has been a collapse in support for Israel among the leadership and laity of the Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative movements. While hostile Jews in these movements manage to make a lot of noise, the widespread indifference among their laity is far more consequential. This dissipation of fidelity, of course, is a natural outgrowth of Jewish illiteracy and assimilation.

5) Many Jews, having rejected traditional Judaism, now embrace a new “religion” – contemporary liberalism, which is marked by moral relativism, multiculturalism, rejection of religion, globalism, elevation of the group over the individual, exchange of God-given rights for government-conferred rights, inversion of private property, and denial of the preciousness of every soul. It also rejects the American idea and vehemently denies the illiberal nature of Islam.

Modern liberalism also undermines, not only the traditional family, but the concept of family itself. The ghoulish consequence is a radically low birthrate among liberal Jews, well below the replacement rate and among the very lowest of any ethnic or religious group in the United States.

These five tectonic shifts have led to an earthquake of self-destruction. With its high intermarriage rate and low birthrate, American Judaism is now in a demographic free fall with only Orthodox Jews left standing. To prevent such a travesty, here are some belated suggestions. They are incomplete and unlikely to be widely adopted, but hope springs eternal.

* To the rabbis, cantors, and educators of the Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative movements: Rather than emphasizing social action and critique of Judaism, make it personal. For those among you who believe in the God of Israel, foster a personal relationship between your congregants and God. Highlight texts that teach about family, modesty, and relations between man and his neighbors. Reveal the time-honored centrality in Judaism of personal conduct, prayer, and Israel.

Telling congregants that a good Jew advocates for abortion, welfare, gun control, feminism, gay rights, gender fluidity, business regulation, socialized medicine, affirmative action, and immigration isn’t working for the Jewish future. If you sing a new tune, perhaps a few Jews will be salvaged from their otherwise inevitable drift to Jewish oblivion.

* To the Reconstructionist and Reform movements: Put Judaism foremost and social action second. If you believe Judaism calls us to social action of a particular orientation, why do you suppose that calling can continue without knowledge of the theology, texts, history, and heritage that generates it in the first place? And here’s an idea: Teach Jewish obligations. You might be surprised how many people are inspired by them and how few flee if you discuss them.

* To the Conservative leadership: Stop following and start leading. Teach Torah for what it is trying to say to us. Highlight its profound messages rather than endless intellectualized critique. Who would want to be a part of a movement that afflicts its own religion with continuous criticism and unceasing revision?

* To the Orthodox rabbis and educators of all stripes, I will quote my own rabbi: “How bad does it have to get before we Orthodox rabbis declare an emergency? Who said that Orthodox rabbis should be rabbis only to Orthodox Jews?”

Would it kill you to carve out time for the broader Jewish community? Why is outreach left to Chabad and Aish HaTorah? As a first step, enrich your communities by proudly broadcasting that you are there for all Jews regardless of background. Encourage congregants to earnestly welcome less observant families and singles. That is how an erlicher Yid acts. Run a concurrent learning service on Shabbat mornings. In addition to hosting Talmud study, offer classes and programs accessible for Jews elsewhere on the ladder.

With all the advantages that will come of Orthodox hegemony in American Jewish life, we’d rather have our Jewish brethren. Millions of Jewish souls are being lost to the Jewish future. Many are being misled from their rightful inheritance and many are dropping it on their own. And many are neither being led nor making a choice. They just don’t care.

I assert all this with great sadness. There are counterpoints, there is a wealth of data to cite, and there is a lot to talk about. Still, the direction is clear, tragic, and undeniable.


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Martin Ingall, the father of three children and three grandchild, was the Founder and President of Technology Information Corporation for 25 years and previously served as a lobbyist for AIPAC. He holds an M.A. in Middle East Economics and International Business Policy from Harvard University.