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October 25, 1974 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1974-10-25

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, October 25, 1974-19

Boris Smolar's

'Between You
. . . and Me'

Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, JTA
(Copyright 1974, JTA Inc.)

Federations and Welfare Funds, which is constantly holding
its finger on the pulse of Jewish communal needs, is per-
turbed. It sees contemporary Jewish life in this country
facing a number of critical developments that may well
determine whether we enter viably into the 21st Century.
Expression of this mood was given by the director of
the CJFWF's community planning department, David Zeff,
recently. The current and growing malaise in the American
ewish community, - he stressed, is not a dimly perceived
prehension, but rather an already existing and troubling
act of life.
Among the critical issues he enumerated are: the ero-
sion of Jewish communal identification; attrition through
assimilation; mediocrity in Jewish knowledge into which
American Jewry is descending; the fact that Jewish educa-
tion for 90 per cent of our children terminates at the 'age of
13, and that the paucity of their comprehension is .exceeded
only by that of their parents; the decline of births among
JeWs which is already at zero growth; the decline in syn-a--
gogue affiliation, with only less than 50 per cent of heads
of households registered as members, and even this percent-
age shrinking with each younger category; the diminution
in number and percentage of Jews between 35 and 65 years
of age-an element on whom the Jewish community depends
Mainly for major gifts for its activities. \
Fifty- per cent of our younger married heads of house-
.. holds have parents who, themselves, are second and third
generation American Jews. The shtetl, the Holocaust, the
creation of the state of Israel are not part of their life
experiences. Their link to Judaism is based merely on
individual sentiments and not on collective impulse. They
are totally ignorant of the riches of the Jewish past.
ROOT OF MALAISE: American Jewry has no eminent
Jewish scholars. We have not produced anything like. the
magnificent poets and philosophers of the Golden Age in
Spain, such as Yehuda Halevi, the Rantham, Ibn Ezra and
others. Nor has American Jewry produced anyone like the
great Talmudist§ of ancient generations in France and Ger-
many, or in Poland until the Holocaust.
Most of our leaders of today suffer from Jewish intel-
lectual mediocrity. - Their direction is therefore limited
mostly to fund-raising and not to the strengthening of Jewish
scholarly traditions.
This is to a great extent the root of the malaise which
the American Jewish community begins -to feel. But the
outlook is that Jewish fund-raising also will not be the
same in another 15 years. The principal source of Jewish
communal income - including fund-raising for Israel - is
coming from the business community. Our national Jewish
trends, however, show that there will be an increase 4n. 15
years from the present one-third to a rate of two-thirds of
heads of families identified as professional and technical-
a category that will be relatively well-to-do, but with neither
the incentives nor the resources to match the giving capaci-
ties or generosity of our current major donors.

HARDER DECISIONS: With a cloudy fund-raising future
and with the danger of a possible decrease in government
funds-on which an increasing number of Jewish agencies
in this country depend, in part at least-the leaders of the
Jewish organizations and communal institutions will hence-
forth have to make harder decisions than ever before.
At present the issue of Israel commands the first atten-
tion of American Jewry. Leaders of Jewish Federations,
who are largely non-Zionists, are providing uncritical adher-
ence to Israel's policies. The shifting and forbidding inter-
national scene hardly permits American Jewry not to be
passionately concerned over the fate of Israel. However,
questions are beginning to pop up over the suppression of
the Reform and Conservative religious movements in Israel,
well as over the fact that marriage and divorce problems
• 41111 ?,<?. entirely in the hands of the Orthodox rabbinate; also
er other internal issues ! which some American Jewish
leaders, while being strongly pro-Israel, feel that their senti-
ents in matters affecting Jewish culture and religion
lould be taken into account by Israel.

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Yeshiva U: Sets Weekend Retreats

In a con- the Brookdale Foundation
tinuing effort to strengthen and, are expected to begin in
Jewish family life and pro- November.
According to Rabbi Robert
vide meaningful cultural and
educational experiences for S. Flirt, director of univer-
Jewish youth, the elderly, sity planning for Jewish edu-
students at all levels and cation, the programs will be
among- the "un-affiliated," aimed "at the Minds and
Yeshiva University will spon- he a rts" of participants
sor and develop a series of through creation of a "total
Jewish environment," and
weekend retreat programs.
the opportunity for formal
The two-year programs are study, which might not other-
being funded by a gift from wise be available to them.

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