Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Tammuz 5765 - July 20, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Planning for the Jewish People without Chareidim

The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI), a think- tank founded by the Jewish Agency to ponder the present and future of the Jewish People, got headlines for their 2005 annual report published this month by announcing that Israel's Jewish community will "soon" be the world's largest. Right now, according to their assessment, it is just behind the US, but the US community is declining while Israel's is expanding. Hence Israel will soon overtake the US.

In the press reports this was painted as a happy event, the latest in the long line of Zionist "firsts": "Israel will soon be home to the largest Jewish community in the world for the first time in two millennia" — is the way the BBC put it.

The celebration takes place in a fool's paradise, for the rise of the Israeli community is due mainly to the decline of the Diaspora. Throughout the world the overall Jewish community is dying, and only in Israel does it look like it has some life left.

Moreover, the numbers themselves refer to the so-called "core" Jewish population throughout the world. This is the number that was studied by the sociologists and social work agencies who were behind recent population studies in the United States, but it is not the number that should concern those interested in the future of the Jewish people as a going enterprise.

The so-called "Core" Jewish population includes millions of people who do not identify themselves as Jewish. As long as they have Jewish ancestors and do not identify with another religion, sociologists have no choice but to call them "Jewish" and social service agencies can claim that they are their constituency.

However these people are so assimilated that from a policy and planning point of view (not to mention their own point of view) it is not realistic to call them "Jewish." They are not any more likely to support Jewish causes than the rest of the American populace — and, given the well-known Jewish tendency to self-hatred, perhaps less.

In an earlier article (Shemos 5763, "There Are Only 2,300,000 Hardcore American Jews") we introduced the idea of Hardcore Jewry, those who identify with and are fully committed to the Jewish people — regardless of their political beliefs, of course. By this reckoning, Eretz Yisroel already contains more than half of all of world Jewry, and the situation that the JPPPI anticipates for the future has already occurred way in the past.

After one acquires experience with ideas and techniques, the natural and sensible thing to do is to build upon the experience and use the ones that really worked rather than continue to espouse ideas based on hopes that proved sterile or worse. Although the report does mention the need to encourage larger families, it states, without explanation, "Emphasis should be on the large pool of medium-size families who now have 2-3 children and would like to have 3-4, rather than on very large families." Sadly, we can supply the reasoning: the families of 2-3 children tend to be secular and Ashkenazic, while the "very large families" tend to be chareidi and Sephardic. The authors of the report come from the same background as High Court Justice Cheshin and they probably also want to encourage the former and discourage the latter, as he expressed himself so clearly from the Bench.

This is the cohort that has been in charge of things for the Jewish people for two generations, and they are the ones who have brought us to the present situation. Yet they are still unwilling to look deeply at those who are truly successful demographically, and prefer to expend the precious resources on trying to build on the demographic followers rather than the leaders. For we suspect that the reason that secular Israelis (that is families with 2-3 children) have more children than secular Jews elsewhere is that they are challenged and enticed by the chareidi children who are an increasingly visible presence throughout the Israeli scene. Thus the real leaders are the big families.

A report that presumes to address the needs and status of the entire Jewish people and has no genuine chareidi input is, it should be obvious to everyone by now, an anachronism. Even if the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute does not include chareidim, the Jewish people most assuredly will, be'eizer Hashem, and in increasing proportions.

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