The Latest News about American Jewry Is Bleak, and Efforts to Find Silver Linings Are Misguided

Jan. 12 2022

Last spring the Pew Research Center released results of a major study on the demography, religious observances, and opinions of American Jewry. Unlike Pew’s last such report, released in 2013, this one prompted relatively little discussion in Jewish media and among Jewish institutions and leaders. Jack Wertheimer, who analyzed the 2013 study for Mosaic, finds that what discussion there is reflects a Jewish community committed to sticking its head in the sand:

To read op-eds and listen to Zoom discussions about the meaning of Pew’s findings is to be transported to a never-never land where all is well and even distressing news is magically transformed into something positive. Here are a few examples of the general direction taken by commentators: American Jews overall participate considerably less in all forms of Jewish life than a generation or two ago, but the good news, we are told, is that the youngest adults do engage with a few aspects of Jewish life at roughly the same rates as their elders—meaning there is no cause for concern about a generational decline in Jewish engagement.

The good news, according to some observers, is that nearly three-quarters of American Jews regard “leading an ethical and moral Jewish life” as essential to their Jewishness; never mind that only one-third regard “being part of a Jewish community” as essential.

Wertheimer systematically evaluates, and dismantles, the various attempts by analysts to find silver linings in the data, and instead tells the hard truth:

What we are witnessing is the abandonment by significant portions of the Jewish population of the twin pillars that supported Jewish communal life: adherence to a set of common religious practices and a commitment to care for Jewish needs at home and abroad. Large majorities of Jews used to celebrate a seder, fast on the Day of Atonement, and attend synagogues at least on the High Holy Days. Increasing numbers of Jews today no longer do so. And the desire to belong to a Jewish community, support its institutions, and feel a strong kinship with fellow Jews, especially in Israel, is also waning. Little wonder that unified action seems such a remote possibility in today’s Jewish community.

To aggravate the situation further, new rules concocted by a small fringe of self-styled progressives dictate what may or may not be uttered in public, making it even more difficult to face current challenges. In the name of inclusion, it is now impermissible to speak of declining fertility rates, spiraling intermarriage numbers, plummeting levels of Jewish literacy, and increasing assimilation.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewry, American Judaism, Pew Survey

 

The Significance of Mahmoud Abbas’s Holocaust Denial

Aug. 19 2022

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, during an official visit to Berlin, gave a joint press conference with the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, where he was asked by a journalist if he would apologize for the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (The relationship between the group that carried out the massacre and Abbas’s Fatah party remains murky.) Abbas instead responded by ranting about the “50 Holocausts” perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians. Stephen Pollard comments:

Scholz’s response to that? He shook Abbas’s hand and ended the press conference.

Reading yet another column pointing out that Scholz is a dunderhead isn’t, I grant you, the most useful of ways to spend an August afternoon, so let’s leave the German chancellor there, save to say that he eventually issued a statement hours later, after an eruption of fury from his fellow countrymen, saying that “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any trivialization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.” Which only goes to show that late is actually no better than never.

The real issue, in Pollard’s view, is the West’s willful blindness about Abbas, who wrote a doctoral thesis at a Soviet university blaming “Zionists” for the Holocaust and claiming that a mere million Jews were killed by the Nazis—notions he has reiterated publicly as recently as 2013.

On Wednesday, [Abbas] “clarified” his remarks in Berlin, saying that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history.” Credulous fools have again ignored what Abbas actually means by that.

It’s time we stopped projecting what we want Abbas to be and focused on what he actually is, using his own words. In a speech in 2018 he informed us that Israel is a “colonialist project that had nothing to do with Judaism”—to such an extent that European Jews chose to stay in their homes and be murdered rather than live in Palestine. Do I have to point out the moral degeneracy of such a proposition? It would seem so, given the persistent refusal of so many to take Abbas for what he actually is.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Germany, Holocaust denial, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority