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November 21, 2005

Jews, Orthodoxy And The Jewish Birthrate

Jack Wertheimer's disingenuous article on the declining American Jewish population is now online.

Wertheimer, an official of the failing Conservative movement, blasts his more liberal peers in the Reform and Reconstructionist movements for espousing attitudes that reduce rather than increase the Jewish population. But Wertheimer writes nothing about the failings of his own movement in this regard, and does not note that the mass desertion from Conservative Judaism came about because of the movement's own failures. Those formerly Conservative Jews now (occasionally) fill the pews of the Reform congregations whose message Wertheimer so despises.

But the real problem with Wertheimer's piece is his whitewash of Orthodoxy. Wertheimer touts the high birthrate – but he is silent on the enormous number of Orthodox Jews on welfare and on the failing Orthodox communal institutions that survive only by raising funds from decidedly non-Orthodox Jews. Further, the average Orthodox family has yearly tuition bills (K-12) in excess of $60,000 per year. Many families take second and third mortgages to pay these bills. Others are forced to homeschool or to hit up relatives – especially non-Orthodox ones – for donations.

Wertheimer notes that in less than one generation the majority of affiliated Jews in North America will be Orthodox, and that they will demand (and get) their fair share (figured by population, not donations) of the communal pie.

What he does not note is that pie will continue to shrink. As things now stand, sometime toward the end of the first twenty years of Orthodox dominance, the continued  hyper-birthrate of the Orthodox will cause a communal meltdown, with need for services far outstripping the financial resources needed to pay for them.

And then, what?

Unless Orthodox Jews enter the workforce in large numbers with sufficient training to earn salaries high enough to pay for tuition bills far in excess of the average American household's income, our demographic boom will turn into a spectacular bust. If history is any lesson, the attrition from the Jewish community will be staggering.

Poverty does not attract or retain members. Neither does self-serving Jewish leadership of any denomination, whether they sit in Lakewood or JTS.

Then we have the increasing phenomenon of attrition from Orthodoxy, from the hallowed streets of Lakewood, Williamsburg, Boro Park and Crown Heights. Dissatisfaction with the communities that Wertheimer extols is clearly on the rise, and, unlike earlier generations where Orthodxy's loss was the Conservative or Reform movement's gain, those who leave seem to leave all organized Jewish practice. Wertheimer seems unaware of this, as well.

An honest look at the Jewish community will show that no amount of child marriages and increased social indoctrination will solve our problem.

Do you want to stem the attrition from Judaism? There is only one answer, and it is the most difficult solution of all. Fix what is broken – Judaism itself.


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By the grace of G-d
Shalom uBrocha!
In my humble opinion since we are living in the time of Moshiach the Noahides are picking up and will pick up a significant shareof the bills (if one listens to moshiach that is and teaches 7 Noahide Laws like me and my friends do...) another solution is to sell ones childrens intelectual sefirot to slavery give them higher education and send them to work for those gentiles one is suposed to teach Noahide Laws having them support you...
Shmarya should read Yeshayahu 66 and see that now in the time of redemption the nations will specificly not support someone like himself ...leaving the only way to make money by trying to gain support from Amalek selling out his soul to the devil...

Thanks for doing your part Scott and not getting married and having leeches around for the rest of us to support.

By the way, it is the obligation of everyone in a community to pay for the Jewish education of our children. Check out Shulchan Aruch and see that this is something that is not relegated to contribute when you want and when you can, it is akin to a tax.

The only way Judaism can be fixed is first putting an end to a lot of the romantic myths we have been plagued with. Starting with the cult of the Baal Shnorr Tov. A community that wishes to live in slavish devotion to one persons teachings to the extreme of isolating themselves from the Kahal in small ghettoes should be shunned and ignored like is done to the Shomronim and Karaitim.
Did ya ever notice how when some Mekubal makes a statement, how many superstitious Jews jump up out of their shoes and do a hora.??? The Zohar was a medieval fake, many herliche Rebbeim have thought so. Lets stop this Avodah Zorah. What a Mekubaal says no matter how elderly or learned you think him to be. There was a reason why if a Navi wasnt appointed by hashem but like Elisha, was appointed by another true Navi usually his teacher, he was given the deference that he was indeed a Navi or Roeh.
If they are not Neviim than they are either demented or frauds, either way they speak Sheker even if it has a little truth in it.
Finally, put an end to the welfare system of Kollels. Those ignoramuses are supposed to support their own families, at least my ketubah outlines that as one of my duties. Make em go out and get a job and education, because I know that the majority of these guys need to be working because after so many years in one place they we should have a run on Torah Scholars but what we get are a bunch of slobs who need to be run out and excercised and educated.

I blogged on "Rabbi" Jack's little sermon, and I think you need a reality check on the state of non-Orthodox Judaism.


First, most non-Orthodox Jews are proabably Reform theologically, even those who belong to Conservative synagogues. Second, the most important thing about Rabbi Jack's tirade is that what he really wants is for non-orthodox Jews to become sheeplike obedient follwers of the JTS gedolim. Third, I think that non-orthodox Judaism may be in a better state than most people think. We may not fill the pews at shul, and we don't have 15 kids, and we may intermarry (not me!), but we know we're Jewish, and many of us are observant under theradar of the institutions. In other words, we are developing a Jewish life without supporting Jewish institutions, which is fine by me, as Jewish institutions tend to be corrupt and proably have been ever since Moshe asked the Israelites for contributions to build the Mishkan.

Your comments about the eventual meltdown of the orthodox are interesting, however. You can be sure I don't give thier institutions any money. Why should I when they denigrate me?

I belonged to what was supposedly an orthodox synagogue growing up in the 50s. I spent my Saturdays with Rabbi Groner studying Talmud.

I now have four children (doing my part) and belong to a Reform Congregation. I honestly can't tell the difference in services. Other than the Sephardic pronunciation.

I really think that the key is the Jewish Nation. And religion is only one of its components.

BTW I intermarried and my mate converted (before the marriage). So let us hear it for intermarriage.

All my kids but one have been bar/bat mitzvah. Surpisingly the oldest who did not get barmitzvah is the most interested in Judaism and has been to Israel (thank you Birthright Israel).

Any way religion or no my kids all understand the importantance of identifying with the Jewish Nation.

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