The Bad News from the Latest Survey of American Jewry Doesn’t Only Concern the Non-Orthodox

Recently the Pew Research Center released its latest major demographic study of U.S. Jews. (See Mosaic’s in-depth discussion of the 2013 survey here.) Some of the news is familiar: the rapid growth of the Orthodox, who make 3 percent of those older than sixty-five but 17 percent of those between eighteen and twenty-nine; the rapid decline of the liberal denominations; and the expanding proportion of “Jews of no religion.” But Jacob J. Schacter, a historian and an Orthodox rabbi, sees above all reasons for worry:

Some pundits have been optimistic about the results of the study because it “is evidence of the innovative and ever-changing ways Jewish religion is practiced, not grounds for panic.” While I welcome different ways Jews connect to their Jewishness, I am concerned for two reasons. First, the study showed that many, even self-identifying, Jews are not at all involved in any way “Jewish religion is practiced,” even most broadly [defined]. Fully one-third of those who were raised Jewish are not Jewish today, either because they identify with a religion other that Judaism (19 percent consider themselves Christian) or because they do not currently identify themselves as Jews in any way.

I also wonder how meaningful even practices identified as religious can ultimately be absent any non-negotiable commitment to the notion of mitzvah, or commandedness, a concept more and more problematic in a contemporary world governed by personal autonomy and individual choice.

But most disturbing and upsetting to me is the finding in this study that 33 percent of Jews raised as Orthodox do not continue to identify with Orthodoxy as adults. . . . I personally am aware of a number of such cases and in each one of them the parents of these children are wonderful and positive role models; they have done all they could possibly do to raise their children as committed and observant Jews. But, communally, we [Orthodox Jews] need to devote much more attention to this [problem] than we have been giving it until now.

At the link below, find further analysis of the Pew study by Erica Brown, Eric Fingerhut, Efrem Goldberg, and Steven Weil.

Read more at Jewish Action

More about: American Jewry, Demography, Orthodoxy, Pew Survey


Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security