Editorial on Judaism and Numbers in America

November 20, 2002

Source: The New York Times

On November 20, 2002 The New York Times printed an editorial by Douglas Rushkoff that stated, "at their annual conference, the United Jewish Communities had planned to release a new $6 million population study. In the past, these studies, issued every 10 years, have warned American Jews that they are ever more imperiled by an aging population, rampant intermarriage, low birth rates and declining synagogue membership. But last week, citing 'missing data,' the organization, an umbrella group of Jewish federations and communities, announced that it would hold off releasing its findings indefinitely. For too long, the health of Judaism has been defined largely by numbers. Certainly, this is understandable -- a concern rooted in some very real and recent efforts at eliminating the Jewish population. But must we forever judge the future of American Judaism as if we were evaluating the health of an endangered species? The problem for Jews today, if there is one, is not waning demographics or cultural assimilation. It is the focus on these factors as the core priorities of the Jewish faith. In fact, it is only by liberating ourselves from these metrics that we become able to understand how Judaism is not on the brink of extinction at all, but poised for renaissance. Such a rebirth would not merely invigorate Jewish culture but serve Americans too, as we try to come to terms with religions and the people who see fit to defend them."