The Art of Wishful Thinking
by Staff Reporter
The power of wishful thinking is part of our way of life. Recently, a demographic survey of the United Jewish Communities (roof organization of 117 Jewish Federations in North America) exposed the high rate of Jewish intermarriage and assimilation. The survey explained that Jewish females tend to replace motherhood with professional career. The fertility rate of the Jewish family, therefore, is lower than the American national average! No future, no biological future to the American Jewry. Certainly, a pessimistic picture. But U.J.A. Federation of New York (including Nassau, Westchester, and Suffolk) decided to challenge this picture. And from March to September 2002, conducted its own demographic survey which demonstrated that Jews have a future at least in greater New York because: "Intermarriage rates are relatively low compared with other Jewish communities: 22% of all currently married couples are intermarried." But 60,000 children living in intermarriage households "...are not being raised as Jews."
One can learn about the dynamic of the Jewish community by reading The Jewish Community Study of New York: 2002 Highlights. But we must keep in mind:
1. It is a study of the U.J.A.- a federation by people of the U.J.A. Federation. They belong to the same circles and they have their own agenda and wishful thinking as well;
2. The study was produced by Jacob B. Ukeles, Ron Miller, Egan Mayer, Marketing Systems Group-Genesys Sampling, International Communication Research (ICR);
3. 4,533 respondents participated in this research. It is very strange to find that no one needed Hebrew for interviews but other languages such as Russian or Yiddish.
The most dramatic findings or revelations according to this study were:
1. There are still 1.4 million Jews in greater New York. But N.Y.C. Demographic Commissioner last year demonstrated a serious decrease of the weight of Jewish population in N.Y.C. Jews are losing power, political power!
2. There are 202,000 Russian Jews in N.Y.C. This is a well-known fact. Around 16% are Russians;
3. Around 27% were not born in this country. There are around 10% or 140,000 Jews who were born abroad. Who are they? I have an answer: the Israeli community, the Israelis, the ones which the established Jewry love to ignore. This fact can be documented. The Jewish sociologists, the Jewish demographs, do not see Israelis in N.Y.C., living and acting, under their noses. It sounds like a fantasy but this is the evidence, therefore, Israeli born Jews do not make the samples, do not make the demography! One researcher of the United Jewish Communities argued that there are only 100,000 Israelis in this country. Certainly, there are more Israelis in greater N.Y.C. than Russians! But the Russians have been a Jewish-American topic, an established Jewish minority, which justify Hias, for example, as a Jewish urgent agency, its essential existence forever. It is a historical fact: all N.Y.C.'s federation attempts to outreach Israelis as Jews have been dismantled or aborted. Israelis still live between Israel and the American organized Jewry, hovering non-stop. American Jewry has not changed its approach to the so-called Yordim. As I entitled my survey, this is one epitome of wishful thinking: to ignore Israelis!
4. The Jewish media stresses the new horrible finding: there are 244,000 Jewish people who live in poverty! Third of the Jewish households reported annual income of $35,000! "One in six... households is poor." There are many poor senior citizens, especially Russian. The poverty in N.Y.C. itself doubled since 1991! Many poor people are old, widows, or single old people living alone.
The message is clear: the U.J.A. Federation must allocate more budget to challenge Jewish poverty. We should expect a new cut of the money which goes abroad and of course to Israel. It is not a secret that every decade Israel gets less and less money from the American Jewry. There is a hidden agenda. The Jewish Agency, Israel a country in crisis, will receive less donations from here. The Federation is stronger than the U.J.A. It is encouraging to find the routine response of 4,533 Jews (92%) who states that they support Israel's survival. But living among Jews, here, one can feel their growing apathy to the fate of Israel. And many Jews rush to support the anti-Israeli camp in this country, or rush to sign anti-Israeli petitions in the New York Times;
5. a. More highlights: an increase of the Orthodox community, b. 58% (out of 4,533) stated that they donated to Jewish cause. Those who also visited Israel increased their donation. The truth: there is a decrease in the Jewish philanthropy in America! The young generations frustrated with the weaknesses of the Jewish establishment tend to donate to non-Jewish causes, such as hospitals or universities. Jewish outreach of secular young Jews is in permanent crisis. What is the effective formula?
by Staff Reporter
Perhaps Israel Bonds ($1.2 billion in 2002) has the answer... Perhaps the Federation should outreach the Israelis? Why do they not give? Because they have been ignored by the establishment! c. 972,000 Jews live in New York City and 440,000 in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester (455,000 households in NYC and 188,000 in the rest). In 2002, 456,000 lived in Brooklyn, 243,000 in Manhattan, 186,000 in Queens, 45,000 in Bronx and 42,000 in Staten Island, d. 22% under 18.20% 65 or older. Married 57%. Never married 20%, e. 19% Orthodox, 26% conservatives and 29% reform. 15% just Jews. Reform and conservatives lost power compared to 1991. Orthodox (1991 - 13%, 2002 - 19%), f. 48% of the total have no affiliation with a Jewish organization! JCC members or other Jewish organizations: only 9%!! Congregation 24%.
The pattern is not new: in the big cities the level of affiliation is low. This evidence creates a doubt as to the research finding of a low (22%) level of intermarriage in New York. Of course, in Nassau county, 56% had a connection to a synagogue compared to only 30% in Manhattan! (47% in Brooklyn, 46% in Queens). Also, there are 370,000 children under 18 living in greater N.Y.C. 83% are being raised as Jews. Generally speaking this survey exposed the modern tendency of young Jews (the future generations) to reinforce their wish to erode their Jewish identity. The goal of the U.J.A. Federation is to raise money but the erosion of Jewish identity means less motivation to donate money to Jewish causes. This is a dangerous cycle, and a challenge to those who believe in Jewish eternity in America.
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