Jewish leaders younger than 40 aren’t as bent out of shape about intermarriage as their older colleagues.
That’s a not-very-surprising finding of “Generation of Change: How Leaders in their Twenties and Thirties are Reshaping American Jewish Life,” a new survey of young leaders of Jewish organizations commissioned by the Avi Chai Foundation.
Actually, this is hardly the only saddening but unsurprising statistic to emerge from the survey. While high percentages of these “young leaders” claim a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people and being part of the Jewish community, fewer than 50% strongly agreed that they have a responsibility to take care of Jews in need around the world. Similarly, fewer than 50% identified threats to Israel’s security, challenges to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, anti-Semitism (whether in the US or in Europe) or even remembering the Holocaust as part of their anxieties about Jewish security. The only thing that the majority agree upon (with regards to Israel) is that Israel should freeze settlements.
Referring back to our previous discussion about political liberalism taking the place of Judaism, the survey supports the assertion of a radical change taking place in the Jewish community. “83% of younger nonestablishment leaders identified themselves as Democrats and political liberals… 72% of younger establishment leaders self identified as Democrats and 56% as liberals.” 64% of the young nonestablishment leaders identify “Jews working for social justice causes” as “very important,” and the plurality identify themselves as “post-denominational.”
Also “very important” to over 70% is “helping Jews find real meaning in being Jewish…” while Torah study, engaging prayer, and Jewish spirituality all failed to break the 50% mark. Meanwhile, two-thirds of Jewish leaders say that their parents lit Shabbos candles, at least. I don’t think this disconnect needs elaboration.
On the question of intermarriage itself, there is a curious disconnect between the percentage who feel that “it is important to encourage Jews to marry Jews,” which is merely 36%, versus the percentage who “would be upset if my child were to marry a non-Jew who did not convert,” 62%. A new instance of “not in my backyard,” perhaps?
All of this comes from a quick scan of the relevant tables; I’m sure I’ll have more to say after a more careful reading.