Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Nissan 5759 - April 14, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Jewish Demography -- 5759 (1999)

by M. Samsonowitz

Part I

The Conservative and Reform Number Game

An Orthodox reader of contemporary Jewish demographic studies better come equipped with a good sense of humor and a large dollop of disbelief, otherwise; the somber reports about the future of Orthodox Jewry are liable to send him off to his local funeral home to order a set of shrouds while the supply lasts.

Even though every year we know that we have to chase after principals whose schools are overflowing to accept our children, even though almost monthly we're informed of a new housing project going up for another religious neighborhood in Israel or in New York, and even though kosher food services and Orthodox publishing houses have burgeoned beyond belief in the past few years -- the demographic savants are still predicting that we're on the way of the dinosaur.

How can the university statisticians and sociologists make such a grave error when all one needs to disprove their conclusions is to just walk through Williamsburg or Monsey, Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Ashdod or Kiryat Sefer -- or dozens of other such communities?

To a large degree, the experts were misled by the conclusions of the National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) carried out by the Council of Jewish Federations (U.S.) in 1990, which until today is the most authoritative source for statistics about the American Jewish community. The study's findings showed that while 11% of the respondents came from Orthodox homes, only 7% are Orthodox today. The obvious conclusion: the Orthodox are decreasing. For instance, in Jewish Choices, published by the State University of New York in 1998, the distinguished authors (who include a professor emeritus of Sociology at Bar Ilan University, professor of sociology at Connecticut College, and professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut) conclude:

"The major problem for the Orthodox denomination is how to stem its historically heavy losses to other denominations, especially to the Conservative movement." (p. 133)

How are the savants so off-base in their analysis of the situation?

We feel that their unfamiliarity with our communities is only partly responsible for their inaccurate findings. The real problems are rooted in the inadequacies of a population survey in general, and with the NJPS in particular.

Inadequacies of Population Surveys

There are so many problems with surveys that it is possible to produce findings widely divergent from the reality, even with a serious sincere effort. These are some of the reasons why:

1. Inaccurate representation

In contrast to a census in which every person is counted, a survey only takes a small sampling and projects it onto the whole.

When they started, those conducting the NJPS randomly phoned some 125,813 randomly selected homes throughout the U.S. Based on the responses of those who claimed they were Jewish or "Jewishly affiliated," which totaled 5,146 households, they re-contacted them and tried to ask them detailed questions about themselves. The got a total of 2,441 completed interviews, which yielded information on 6,514 persons in those surveyed households. Based on these replies and "using a process of scientific weighting procedures, utilizing all 125,813 Stage I interviews," he concluded that the sample represents 3.2 million American households nationally. Using similar weighting procedures, they determined that the total number of people represented was 8.1 million, including many not Jewish (as per the mixed composition of many of the households). With this, they made projections for the entire Jewish community.

We wonder -- how many of those targeted included religious Jews in Williamsburg, Monsey, LA. or Baltimore? Maybe none? Maybe they did target one Williamsburg Jew and when they started asking him detailed questions about his convictions, the man answered, "Iz doh a nudnik oif di telephone," and hung up?

Religious Jews have a tendency to be circumspect about giving out private information which is well known to the poll- takers in Israel. Moreover, religious Jews tend to be heavily concentrated in certain geographical areas because of their need to access shuls within walking distance on Shabbos, and to maintain their day-to-day involvement in many community institutions (shuls, yeshiva, chesed organizations, youth groups).

2. Undefined categories

Those conducting the survey said quite clearly that they asked for no supporting documentation or even provided no standard definitions of the categories that they proposed.

Respondents were asked if they are: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or secular. But what do these categories mean? To a secular Jew, his grandmother was Orthodox because she lit candles Friday night and wouldn't eat pork, even though she may have driven a car on Shabbos. A Reform Jew might call her Conservative, and an Orthodox Jew might have termed her Reform.

What is the difference theologically and practically between one who defines himself as nondenominational, and one who defines himself Reform?

When the categories are undefined, whatever findings one obtains are unreliable. As they noted themselves in their official summary of the NJPS: ". . . in the United States, religion and ethnicity are voluntary expressions of identity. . . . Consequently may people exhibit inconsistencies in their behavior with respect to normative expectations."

3. The crucial beginning point

History is composed of shifting trends and patterns. Every poll must have a starting point at which it quantifies what a group was like then, and how it has developed since. The starting point is crucial. Assume that the following statistics on the percentage of Orthodox Jewry among total Jewry are accurate. (They are not.):

Percent born Orthodox of total Jewish population in 1940 -- 10%, currently Orthodox in 1999 -- 7%.

Percent born Orthodox of total Jewish population in 1960 -- 2%, currently Orthodox in 1999 -- 7%.

The first statistic indicates that Orthodoxy is suffering from a clear decline; the second, that it is experiencing tremendous growth. The first Orthodox graduates who attended twelve years of day school only appeared in the late 60's and 70's. To appreciate the present growth of the Orthodox community, it is necessary to study those who were born in the 1950's and who had the benefit of a full Jewish education.

4. How the question is worded can radically change the reply.

The NJPS asked respondents how many were born in Orthodox homes, and how many were now Orthodox. The answer was -- 11% were born in Orthodox homes and 7% are now Orthodox. But how was Orthodox identity defined? If they had asked instead, "Did you fully observe the laws of Shabbos and kashrus as you were growing up, and do you now?" the percentage of those stating that they grew up Orthodox might have declined greatly. Instead of Orthodox decline, the statistics might have shown Orthodox growth.

5. Statistics are easily manipulated, and drawing projections from samples is often illusory.

Statistics are easily manipulated to deliver the conclusions that one wants. Imagine a town where an old Eskimo lived alone by himself. One year, an Eskimo family with four members move in. One could then accurately report: "The Eskimo community is one of the youngest sectors in town -- 80% are age 30 and younger." or, "Unprecedented influx of Eskimos -- 400% increase in Eskimo sector this year."

When the old Eskimo passes away, the headlines might report "Flu decimates elderly Eskimo population."

This exaggerated example is actually used extensively by all media manipulators. For instance, when a Tiveryan local weekly placed a voting booth next to the home of Yitzchak Mordechai's mother to see if people in this Likud stronghold (who had voted exclusively for Netanyahu in the last elections) would switch their vote to Mordechai, the results were 22% for Mordechai and 78% for Netanyahu. The results in that location, which could be expected to show the greatest support for Mordechai because of neighborhood and familial associations, actually demonstrated his resounding failure in barely garnering a fifth of the vote. But Ha'aretz turned it into a triumph for the left, since it demonstrated "22% less support for Netanyahu." Since this was on Mordechai's home turf, it would be deceptive to draw any parallels for nationwide support for Mordechai or Netanyahu, but Ha'aretz did not hesitate to make such a sweeping conclusion based on these "real-time" statistics.

In fact, there are many who have reasons to inflate American Jewish population statistics, ranging from Jewish social workers who want to show that they have a large "client base" to Reform leaders who want to "prove" that they have many followers.

The NJPS and the Orthodox Jews

Having explained the fallacies inherent in surveys in general, let's go back to the NJPS and show why its findings do not accurately reflect the situation of Orthodox Jewry in the U.S.

The majority of the millions of Jews who arrived in the U.S. during the early decades of this century were Orthodox in the sense that they upheld tradition, davened in Orthodox shuls, kept Shabbos (even while many worked in their stores), ate only matzos on Pesach, and wouldn't eat pork. Their own motivation for keeping these mitzvos ranged from truly religious to ethnic, but it is questionable if the vast majority of their children could be considered Orthodox at any point in their upbringing, in the sense that we today call someone Orthodox.

Their children's Jewish education usually consisted of a few hours a week after a long day at public school. The effect on religious commitment was minimal or adverse. Whatever Jewish tradition the children kept lasted only as long as they lived at home. If they ever kept kashrus, it was only because their mothers' cooking at home did not include pork and mixed meat and dairy foods, and not because of any conscious decision on their part to be observant.

The situation today is vastly different. No honest person would claim that he is Orthodox unless he strictly keeps a minimum of Shabbos and kashrus.

This situation of growing Jewish acculturation, and secularization of the so-called Orthodox, ended at World War II, which it is clear should always be seen as the turning point in Orthodox life. Whereas Jewish immigrants before the war came to seek a better material existence or a more secure life for themselves, the end of World War II brought an influx of strictly Orthodox refugees who fled the horrors of Europe and sought to transplant their Jewish identities and communities intact to the American scene.

Moreover, the groundwork laid by American Orthodox Jewish leaders in the previous decades finally solidified and they succeeded in establishing a new, previously unknown American Orthodox lifestyle that preserved fidelity to Jewish law while coalescing (each group to its own degree) with the American scene. The necessary formula included the establishment of day schools with a certain amount of secular studies, seminaries where girls study Jewish education at an advanced level, yeshiva attendance for all youths until adulthood, professional training, and integrating with the American work force. From then on, Orthodoxy began to rally and experienced tremendous growth.

The NJPS actually hints to this new trend in its conclusions concerning the retention power of the Orthodox. The younger the age bracket, it says, the higher the Orthodox retention. Thus, the study claims that in the 50-59 age bracket, the retention rate among the Orthodox is only 11.7%, but among the 18-29 year olds the retention rate is 65.2% (and even higher if one includes ba'alei teshuvah and if one considers that the rate of natural increase (children) of the Orthodox is far above the average 1.6% Jewish rate).

If we accept as the criteria for an Orthodox Jew the strict observance of Shabbos and kashrus, we might find perhaps that a mere 2% of all Jews in the U.S. in 1950 were truly Orthodox. In the 1990 NJPS, those who claimed to be Orthodox today (and who presumably would claim that the above two criteria apply to them), total 7% of all respondents. This is an impressive 350% growth. In the absence of an accurate survey I cannot prove this claim, but anyone who is active in Orthodox life today would agree that it mirrors the growth that we who are living in the community have witnessed over the past few decades.

One way to describe the growth of the present Orthodox community and separate it from the former pattern of acculturation of the traditionally Orthodox that existed before World War II, is to research the growth of the Orthodox day school movement. A Jewish day school education is perhaps the most tangible criteria of the new Orthodox American community.

On a personal note, when the head of the local yeshiva suggested to my shomer Shabbos father that he send his children to learn in the local yeshiva in the early 1960's, it was by no means the foregone conclusion that it is today. Despite their commitment to observant Jewish life, parents then had concerns of sectarianism and inferior education that made them reluctant to send their children to a Jewish day school. These concerns would not even occur to an Orthodox parent today. Today, no Orthodox parent would seriously consider sending his children to a public school if a day school existed nearby, notwithstanding the high expenditure it entails.

The NJPS and Reform Jews

Having explained why the NJPS cannot be relied upon to give an accurate picture of Orthodox Jewry, we have to explain equally why it cannot be relied upon to give an accurate picture of the Reform and Conservative movements.

Imagine this situation: We meet a fellow in Spain and ask him if he is an American. "Si, senor," he tells us. We ask further, "Do you speak English?" He tells us that he doesn't speak English. "Were you ever in the U.S.?" He says that he made a 5-day vacation stopover ten years ago. "Did you ever study U.S. history, art, politics?" No, nothing. Finally, we ask him, "So what makes you an American?" He replies that he feels an affinity to Americans, so that's why he answered yes.

National or ethnic or religious identity is not merely wishful thinking. It is a sum total of lifestyle, behavior patterns, geographical location, language, history and culture. Every religion has a set of beliefs, values, practices and holidays which its adherents must believe in and observe, and which distinguishes them from other religious groups. Basic Christian beliefs and holidays are universally known in the West where that is the dominant religion, and can be viewed almost every time one steps in to a department store during holiday seasons.

What constitutes the basic set of beliefs, values, practices and holidays of the Reform and the Conservative movements? The researcher quickly discovers that there are virtually no universally accepted values and beliefs in these movements, and that core beliefs are frequently put to the vote in a meeting and changed with a wave of hands. It is true that age- old Jewish holidays are celebrated -- but after undergoing modern adaptation and extensive plastic surgery, which again is subject to reinterpretation as new values are adopted from the host gentile society. For example, up until 1983, the Reform movement did not consider the offspring of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother to be Jewish. Suddenly, after a vote taken at a convention that year, hundreds of thousands of such people of all ages became "Jewish" according to the Reform movement.

Even if we accepted the most watered down criteria of what constitutes Reform and Conservative Jewish identity, we would quickly discover that the large numbers quoted in the NJPS as belonging to the Reform and Conservative movements are a fiction. Conservative and Reform each do not have more real adherents than the Orthodox community today.

This fact, which sounds astonishing in the light of regular statements by Reform and Conservative leaders of their large constituencies, can be deduced from the numerous studies, findings and articles that have appeared in Reform and Conservative journals in recent years. The findings of the NJPS of "1.8 million Conservative" and "2.3 million Reform" is a bloated farce that is extremely generous to those movements.

How Many Practicing Reform and Conservative Are There?

In "Conservative Synagogues and Their Members, Highlights of a North American Study" published in 1995-96 by Jack Wertheimer, American Jewish history professor of the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative), he reports the findings of a study he did among dozens of Conservative synagogues. Starting with the assumption that the Conservative movement has 1,800,000 members, as per the findings of the NJPS, he writes that only half of these officially belong to a synagogue. Of these, in nearly half of the synagogues (42%), only 10% attend Shabbos observance regularly. If a holiday falls during the week, 66% of the synagogues will only have 10% attending services.

Since the elderly and middle-aged disproportionately attend synagogue services, this means that only a small percentage of young Conservative Jews even attend their synagogue on a regular basis (p.43). Of those 35 and under overall, on which the future of the Conservative movement depends, less than a third attend at least once a month, and only 20% can be considered highly active despite the fact they are more educated than the elders in the movement. While 63% have had exposure to 6 years of Jewish education or more, they tend to be less interested and involved (p.26).

While Wertheimer doesn't give definite numbers of serious synagogue involvement and Jewish commitment, if we assume that 20% of ALL Conservative Jews (including those who claim to be Conservative but don't even belong to a Conservative synagogue) are committed religiously, we would end up with 360,000 committed and practicing Conservative Jews -- less than the estimated Orthodox community in the U.S.

He furthermore writes that the current Conservative population includes a disproportionate number of older persons, who made the switch from Orthodox to Conservative decades ago. Since then, denominational switching from the Orthodox to Conservative has slowed to a trickle. Since "any sizable influx from the Orthodox is unlikely in the future" (p.37) and since Conservative retention is 73.6% (according to the NJPS), the population of Conservative Jews is steadily dropping.

Someone who attends university in New York told me of a young fellow student she met who claimed he was Reform although he had never been to a Reform temple, nor had a bar mitzva or any kind of formal Jewish learning.

We can certainly suspect that a large number, perhaps even the majority, of those who call themselves Reform or Conservative do so for reasons having nothing to do with religious or ideological identification with these movements - - for instance, because they arranged the bar mitzva of their children in a nearby Reform temple or Conservative synagogue.

Wertheimer mentions (p. 102) that only 54% of all Conservative families had four Jewish grandparents. Of the 37% of Conservative families who are mixed marriages, the majority are young families and they probably derive from Conservative Jews who consider themselves "Conservative" but whose involvement in Jewish life is minimal or nonexistent.

The Ravages of Intermarriage

Intermarriage is on the rise in the Conservative movement, and today, many synagogues have unconverted non-Jews attending services. Robert Gordis summarized the concern of many Conservative colleagues already twenty years ago when he fretted, "The Jewish community simply cannot afford to lose thousands upon thousands of its sons and daughters without making a yeoman effort to reduce... defections from its ranks." (David Singer, "Living with Intermarriage", in Commentary, July 1979, p.51)

The situation of assimilation and intermarriage in the Reform Movement is, of course, far worse. The NJPS reports that only 30% of all Reform families (the greater percentage of which are middle-aged couples) have four Jewish grandparents. 70% of all couples include a non-Jewish spouse, or one who "converted" to Judaism. In recent years, the American press has written that the Orthodox do not consider the Reform and Conservative members to be Jewish. Many Orthodox spokesman respond that this is not true, that the only objections are to their beliefs -- but that may be because the Orthodox spokesman are less familiar with the true membership of those movements than the secular Jews.

Extremely revealing of the actual situation among these two movements is the evaluation in Spectator (ibid. p. 21) of the different programs offered by the Jewish non-Orthodox establishment to imbue their teenagers with Jewish commitment. They give the youth movements ("20,000 active members, although there may be up to 100,000 card-carrying members") a C-; the overnight Jewish camps (estimated participants: 30,000) a D+; Sunday schools a D-; afternoon schools a D+; informal Jewish programs likes Genesis, Panim- el-Panim (estimated participants: 4,000) a D; Israel Experience (3,659 participants last summer) a B-; and non- Orthodox High schools a D.

The Reform and Conservative movements together can only muster the involvement of 60-70 thousand of their youth to the total number of social programs they offer. Their entire future is based upon these few young committed Jews, the only ones who would voluntarily become involved in a Jewish experience. If their constituents total 4.1 million as the NJPS claims, their youth should total at least a quarter of this number. The active involvement of about 60,000 youths (6%) from a pool of 1 million is depressing news for these movements and bodes poorly for their immediate future. For many of these, too, the involvement is only a fad of youth.

Compare this with the tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews who are active in Pirchei and Bnos, NCSY, and Bnei Akiva and the many thousands who travel to Israel every year to spend a year in intensive study in yeshivas or seminaries, or summer travel programs, where the total population is said to be smaller than the youth of those movements.

Every journal produced by Conservative, Reform and secular Jews analyzes the gloomy future that awaits these movements. Hundreds of pages are written about why Jews are intermarrying, and what can be done to stop the bloodletting. Among the reasons given are American liberal patterns, an enchanting and exciting gentile society which is accepting of Jews, the fact that parents are no longer authority figures, familial loyalties are likely to be dismissed as irrelevant, parents abdicating their responsibility to demand "inmarriage" from their children so as not to antagonize them, Jewish youth's negative perception of Jewish supplemental education, and Jewish youth activities which are disproportionately under-attended by Jewish boys.

Trying to Reverse the Trends

Proposed suggestions to stem the tide have all failed. The Israel Experience program proposed in 1992 by Jewish philanthropist Charles Bronfman whose goal was to send 50,000 Jewish teens to Israel by the year 2000, fell flat on its face. Last year, barely 3,700 Jewish teenagers could be prevailed upon to go, and of these, most would have gone anyway even without the incentive of his program. The uninspired and uninterested Jewish teens who his program meant to target could not be enticed to go. In analyzing the failure of the program, researchers explained: "The most basic assumption, that Israel has tremendous intrinsic appeal for all Jews, is faulty. Therefore, attempting to recruit young adults to participate in Israel experiences without educating them, their parents and their Jewish role models to the central role of Israel in Jewish identity and in organized Jewish life is, in effect, putting the cart before the horse." (Journal of Jewish Communal Service, Summer, 1998, p. 211), or as one Jewish student said pithily, "Israel is not even a blip on the radar screen of most [non-Orthodox] New York Jews." (ibid., p. 206)

A director of Israel operations for the United Jewish Appeal reported that the UJA missions were not as "strong" as he had anticipated. "Even the committed people aren't coming," he said. "More non-Jews are coming to Israel, while Jews choose to go elsewhere. More Germans come to Israel annually than American Jews. The Gulf War saw 25 non-Orthodox Jewish tourist groups from New England canceled; every Christian tour came. (Rabbi Edgar E. Siskin, American Jews; What Next?, 1998, p. 147) In contrast to a generation ago, today's Jews do not see the survival of Israel as pivotal to their lives as Jews.

Nor can Reform or Conservative hope that more exciting services at the synagogue will revitalize Jewish commitment. For decades both movements have been trying to infuse humanitarian and social content to their services to increase their appeal to the masses, with at best temporary success. "With congregations apathetic, sanctuaries vacant, Jewish education programs a charade, and `Outreach' programs impotent in damming the flood tide of assimilation, the synagogue would appear a weak rampart for sustaining survival." (ibid. p. 176)

The truth is that Reform Jews have long felt that Reform Judaism is an institution of convenience, appreciated for its social aspects, but not worthy of being taken seriously. Rabbi Julius Weinberg, of Cleveland State University, observed twenty years ago, "We are still haunted by the low image of Reform . . . a Judaism of minimalism and convenience . . . "

In response to the question "What is a Reform Jew?" a Reform Confirmation student wrote, "A Reform Jew is someone who doesn't wear a yarmulke, who doesn't light candles on Friday night, and who goes to the Temple when he feels like it." (ibid., p. 162)

The executive vice-president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (the Reform clergy organization) in describing the "hectic" activity of the typical Reform congregation, observes that "the one dead spot is the sanctuary." And the reason? "The truth is most Reform Jews do not believe that a reality exists behind the word `G-d'." (ibid., p. 163).

@SUB TITLE = The Religious Leaders are Active

A barometer of the true Reform and Conservative sphere of influence can be seen by the campaign waged by the U.S. Reform and Conservative leaders against the Orthodox monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel. Despite the invective and threats issued from the leaders, the majority of the Reform and Conservative members were generally unresponsive and even uninterested. If their spiritual leaders tried to organize a rally along the lines of the prayer rally held in Jerusalem last month, they would be hard pressed to come up with even a few thousand demonstrators nationwide. They can easier muster a delegation of several dozen of their clergy to come to Israel to lobby the government. Many suspect the reason the Reform and Conservative leaders are trying so desperately to get a foothold in Israel is because they realize the bell is already tolling for their movements in America.

We took pains to quote Conservative and Reform leaders about the situation existing in their movements. Even without these official statements, our conclusion about the fates of these movements can be distilled from the simple pattern we have all observed going on all around us. Assimilation is a four generation process. Once deviating from Orthodoxy, the next generation goes to Conservative, the generation after that to Reform, and the fourth generation snaps the cord that connects it to the Jewish nation.

When Uri Rebhoun, of the Hebrew University's Department of Contemporary Jewish Studies, explains that the most "alarming finding" of his study on Jews' abandonment of their denominations is the enormous rise of the nondenominational, those of Jewish extraction who no longer identify their religion as Jewish, he is cataloguing the end of this inexorable process which the majority of Jews in the U.S. are reaching in this decade.

In the 1990 NJPS, the Reform reported increased membership from the previous decade, since they were still getting the fallout from the Conservatives. The nondenominationals, who are the fallout of Reform had an even greater increase, since Reform, being the largest group of all four Jewish groups, also suffered the greatest attrition.

In the upcoming 2000 survey, we will see the assimilation process picking up greater momentum. Since the Conservative numbers have been dropping continuously for three decades because they have only received a minuscule influx from the Orthodox during this time, the fallout from their ranks into Reform will be relatively small. The greatest fallout will occur in Reform, and we will see huge numbers leaving their ranks for the nondenominationals.

If the organizers of the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey prepare the questionnaires so that the unaffiliated and uncommitted cannot filter into the ranks of the Reform and Conservative as they did in the 1990 NJPS, we would not be surprised to find that the Conservative and Reform movements together comprise not more than half a million each, with only a small and decreasing percentage of truly involved Jews. They can do this by asking respondents explicit questions such as, "With which group do you most closely identify with ideologically?" and "Whose practices do you observe in day-to-day life?" instead of an overly simplified and non-committing question such as, "Are you Reform, Conservative or nondenominational?"

These Federation executives have every reason, though, to evade such a direct approach. It is in their interest to come up with as large a number of Jews as possible to claim a constituency on which they can continue their political activism and national influence. "For the near future, there may not be dramatic loss of Jewish population. Jewish identity will be undergoing continuous redefining, so that any who never before would have been defined as Jews will now qualify. Children of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother will now pass muster as Jews. Individuals converted according to the minimal standards of some rabbis will be counted as Jews. So will `cultural converts' who identify with the Jewish people while still retaining their Christian faith. `Happy sociologists' will cast a net of vast width and small mesh in order to snare their questionable Jewish catch." (American Jews, p. 109)

This occurs right now with so-called "Russian" and "Ethiopian" Jews who are still being airlifted to Israel with the support of the Jewish state and American Jews, despite the fact that the vast majority are gentiles with at most some Jewish blood in them.

Reform and Conservative are thus inexorably heading in the same direction as the early Christians, the Sadducees, and the Karaites. These deviant groups were part of mainstream Judaism for close to 200 years. After oscillating ideologically for several decades, they eventually took their rightful place in the non-Jewish world or placed themselves beyond the pale of normative Jewry. Because the Karaites maintained geographical integrity, they were able to preserve their existence as a separate group, but even their practices were much more demanding than the current heretical movements.

Reform and Conservative Jewry, who have no compunctions about intermarriage, and are spread out throughout the U.S., are unlikely to retain their separate identity. Within one, or at most two generations, we will see the institutional demise of these two movements, or perhaps their conglomeration with a universal religious movement like the Unitarians who do not subscribe to the more particularistic elements in Christianity. A humanistic congregation that applied to join the Reform synagogue movement was rejected, but the move was not without serious controversy.

We Have to Mourn the Losses; Not Exult in Them

As Orthodox Jews, we should not feel triumphant at the loss of these segments to the Jewish nation. They are the descendants of G-d-fearing Jews no less than we are; they are our cousins and relatives. A penetrating look at their situation where so many have stepped through the door and are in the last minutes of slamming the door shut should arouse in us emotions of mourning, not jubilation.

If Orthodox Jews have made an amazing comeback after suffering losses for 200 years, we have not ourselves to thank and admire, but zechus Ovos, those pioneers who rebuilt Torah in America with tremendous self-sacrifice, and the promise of Hashem, Elokei Yisroel, of the eternity of our nation.

End of Part I


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