American Jewry is dwindling’

Amidst uproar over Tzipi Hotovely’s comments on ‘American Jews,’ Israeli Chief Rabbi suggests looking at demographic data of American Jewry.

By Eliran Aharon, INN

Rabbi David Lau

Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, was careful not to respond to the storm caused by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely’s remarks, but suggested looking at official figures on American Jewry and drawing conclusions accordingly.

In an interview with i24 on Wednesday, Hotovely said she has used her position to try to bring American Jews closer to Israel, and hopes that more Jews from North America immigrate to the Jewish state.

Hotovely added, however, that there is growing tension between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, stemming from, she claimed, a lack of understanding regarding the complexities of the geopolitical situation.

“The other issue is not understanding the complexity of the region,” she said. “Most [American] Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having [sic] quite comfortable lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel deals with on a daily basis.

“This is the reason for the distancing between US Jews and Israel. American Jews contribute a great deal to Israel, but they cannot condition their connection to Israel on the government’s policies. We need to remember that the past few years have seen stormy discussions about Judaism and identity. These arguments are a healthy part of democracy.”

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Rabbi David Lau said that, in 1945, American Jewry numbered six million Jews: “There was no Holocaust there, thank God, there were no terrible wars that took many Jewish lives, and there was not substantial immigration to Israel. Today, American Jewry numbers less: Five million Jews, including 700,000 Israelis.”

“This means,” explained the Chief Rabbi, “that American Jewry, instead of naturally increasing, is diminishing.”

According to the Pew Institute, about 50 percent of American Jews are secular – “not Reform, not Conservative, and not Orthodox, but secular. So to automatically generalize and say that 90 percent of them are Reform is simply untrue,” he said.

He suggested “looking the facts in the eye – to see the growth of the Orthodox community which, by the way, I would be happy to see grow up here in Israel and not there. You have to look at the data and open your eyes.”

“American Jewry, you have a real problem in the current reality and you have to find the correct way of responding to it, because the answers given so far seem to diminish, rather than increase, the number of Jews,” the Chief Rabbi added.

November 24, 2017 | 5 Comments »

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5 Comments / 5 Comments

  1. @ Cathy:
    You left out the last one. That’s the thing about long-lasting religions and other ideologies, there something for everybody to do their own thing while still feeling traditional, thus having one’s cake and eating it too.

    “5 The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. 7 Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.” 8 Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” 9 When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they shall appoint commanders over it.”

  2. Hotovely was attacked for saying American Jews were

    not understanding the complexity of the region

    I’ll never forget a seder in Washington Heights I attended during the conflict with Obama in which an Orthodox liberal angrily told me that Israel should do whatever America tells it to and defended the Two State Solution; when I started to explain why it is a fantasy, a Trojan horse, he needed more background to understand what I was saying. So, he asked me:

    “What’s Area C?”

    I don’t think anybody at the table knew. Or cared.

  3. @ Cathy:
    I’m thinking that Volozhin might be a precedent.

    “In 1892, demands of the Russian authorities to increase secular studies forced the yeshiva to close.”

    By contrast:

    Unfortunately, they are Satmar and therefore, anti-Zionist. But, they are ultra-orthodox Jews getting their own town! No draft, no national service. They can do what they like.

  4. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    I agree with your second paragraph- I left the US for Israel – it’s the only place for Jews to live freely. But in regard to your first statement about the draft, I wish to clarify something. There are several ways to serve Israel that don’t involve combat, and which cater to religious Jews. We have a young acquaintance who is in the Hesder program, during which Torah studies are combined with IDF service. He does not serve in combat. But he is getting a well-rounded experience in the real world which will help him when he achieves his goal of becoming a Torah teacher. The draft does not mean combat or even IDF base living; these boys are not dodging the IDF service, but they won’t even appear for their draft interview where they could learn all the options, and maybe also get a deferment. That is the problem- they don’t want to work within the system but want special treatment. Most Israelis resent this. Even Moshe required the young men to defend the nation. He only gave exemptions for young marrieds and those who just built a house.

  5. If Israel fails to uphold the traditional draft exemption for the ultra-orthodox, I suspect many will opt for emigration to the U.S. However, in any case, at least one study I read showed that by the end of the century most of the world’s Jews will live in Israel. Fine with me.

    I heard what she had to say and I thought it was terrific. The people who pressure her to resign or apologize should be the ones doing that. I speak as a secular American Jewish supporter of Israel.