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June 30, 1978 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1978-06-30

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2 Friday, kme 30, 1918


Purely Commentary

Auguries for the Future:
Calamitous and Hopeful

Social scientists and historians, deeply concerned lest
growing assimilation, mixed marriages and indifference
should continue to result in defections from Jewish loyal-
ties, predict drastic reductions in Jewish population figures
at the turn of the century.
They are not necessarily prophets of doom. Their predic-
tions are based on serious studies and on anxieties over
trends which indicate a lessening of identification by youth
in Jewish communal ranks.
The concern is based in large measure on the emphasis
given in Jewish life on the philanthropic rather than the
cultural-spiritual values.
One of the predictions is that in a century the American
Jewish population may be so seriously affected by assimila-
tion and mixed marriages that the present five million
number may be reduced to 100,000. The five million figure
also needs explaining. American Jewry is generally spoken
of as a six million body. This is refuted by demographers of
note. It is reasonable to believe that American Jewry is
closer to the five million than the six million figure. One
student of current conditions notes that American Jewry is
losing drastically, at the rate of 100,000 a year. Fertility is
one of the reasons, the Jewish birth rate now being the
Does all of this spell calamity? Is there little hope for a
survivalism based on dedication to traditions, identifica-
tion with the community, loyalty to a great heritage?
Let it be stated at the outset that exaggerations need to
be avoided, that facts should be dealt with on the basis of
historical experience.
Regarding exaggerations: One has already been noted,
that of a padding of the American Jewish population figure.
The one exact and unquestioned - figure is the Israeli,
where a goverment census establishes the actual number of
Jews in relation to Christians and Moslems.
An interesting corruption of population figures relates to
Argentina. The article on that Latin American country in
the current issue of the American Jewish Year Book con-
tains the following important correction:

The Jewish population estimate of 475,000 con-
tinued to be generally accepted abroad, despite
the fact that demographic studies by the Hebrew
University and Tel Aviv University insist that
there are no more than 300,000 Jews in Argentina.
Nearly four decades ago, before the Holocaust but
during the tragic years of Hitlerism, the noted
philosopher, Dr. Hayim Greenberg, wrote an impor-
tant essay entitled "The Eternity of Israel." In this
important essay, dated 1941, Dr. Greenberg warned
Jews not to be too hopeful about their eternity which is
expressed in the ancient phrase: "Netzakh Israel lo
Yeshaker — the Eternity of Israel will not deceive." In
that important essay he admonished Jewry to take into
consideration the experiences of the ages. Therein he
outlined population figures, the declines suffered
through the centuries and the varying changes that
had taken place in Jewish population figures.
Here is a portion of that essay which merits study for
consideration in viewing current developments:
At the time of the
rise of Christianity,
there lived about two
and a half million
Jews in Eretz Yisrael.
(Other historians cite
a still higher figure.)
But at that time sub-
stantial numbers of
Jews already lived in
dispersion. One an-
cient report indicates
that during the time
of Emperor Claudius,
in the First Century
of the Christian era,
nearly seven million
Jews lived in the area
of the Roman Em-
pire. To this number
should be added at least one million more who
lived in Mesopotamia, Persia and some other
. areas. We will be close to the truth if we say that
during the beginning of the Christian era, there
were sdme eight million Jews.
Yet during the so-called Dark Ages of the
medieval era there remained only,between one
and one and a half million Jews, on the basis of
more or less reliable sources. Where did the
others vanish to? We know that the total popula-
tion of the then known world decreased during
these centuries. Great numbers of Jews perished
as a result of persecution and massacres, but this
does not explain how eight million were reduced
to one or one and a half million.. Cecil Roth is

Auguries for the Future, With Competing Visions of
Calamities and Hope: Dr. Chaim Greenberg's Timeless
Vision in Assessment of Jewish Population Statistics

inclined to assume that most of the Jews disap-
peared through assimilation during these cen-
turies. Mass assimilation also occurred in other
eras. Roth reminds us that most of the Jews of
Portugal were converted to Christianity at the
end of the 15th Century. And passing over to mod-
ern England, where Jews returned some 300
years ago, Roth asks how many English Jews can
today trace their descent from forebears who set-
tled in Great Britain after the Revolution. Very
few indeed.
The majority of present day Jews in England
are descendants of immigrants from Eastern
Europe, especially from Russia, who came at the
end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th
Centuries. The "genuine" English Jews have be-
come largely assimilated through conversion, in-
termarriage, or by a process of unnoticed disap-
pearance. Were Jews not to have assimilated in
great masses at certain times, there would today
be about 200 million Jews in the world, according
to Roth's calculations.
Naturally, Roth cannot draw a straight line of
progression for Jewish assimilation, and one can
cite many arguments against his generalization
that extinction is, so to speak, the law of our exis-
tence. Were this law to operate everywhere and at
all times, then of the one and a half million Jews
who lived in the 17th Century there should have
remained no more than a couple of hundred
thousand in our day. How did it happen that de-
spite all the sharply dipping statistical graphs,
there suddenly appeared on the scene some eight
million Jews in the 19th Century, and 16 or more
million Jews in our day?
Cecil Roth also does not distinguish sufficiently
sharply between Jews who became assimilated to
their host nation and those who were converted
by force. When large numbers of Jews are con-
fronted with the choice of conversion or physical
annihilation, conversion or exile, and they submit
to conversion and later mix with the surrounding
population and are lost as an entity, this does not
prove that we wish to assimilate or that we are
incapable of resisting the pressures of other cul-
tures or other modes of living.
The great Jewish increase in the 19th Century
demonstrates that when we are not persecuted —
or less persecuted — we are, under certain cir-

By Philip

cumstances not at all anxious to lose our identity.
The case of Portugal therefore proves nothing.
Nor does the case of Spain when toward the end of
the 15th Century large numbers of Jews became
converted to Catholicism, at least outwardly, in
order to avoid being exiled.
The case of England, where Jews have become
assimilated not out of fear but out of a desire to do
so, is much more convincing. A similar process
took place in Italy. In Germany, too, Hitler would
have found only a handful of Jews, had there not
been a constant influx of Jews from Eastern
Europe to Germany in recent generations. Had it
not been for this influx, which in time also became
Germanized, there would now be even more quar-
ter and eighth Jews in Germany than there are.
What then are we to conclude? Is geography a
factor? Are- we to conclude that eastern Jews
don't assimilate while western Jews do? But East
and West are not only geographical but also his-
torical concepts. In a certain sense we may say
that the present day East will be tomorrow what
the West is today, that capitalist-liberal civiliza-
tion, the weakening of church authority among
Christians and of religious traditions and inhibi-
tions among Jews will transform East into West.
In his study, Jacob Leschinsky has demonstrated
still another factor: that also in a socialist or a
pseudo-socialist society, such as the Soviet Union
is today, Jews are subject to the same assimilating
forces that operate on them in a liberal-capitalist
It is to be implied, even under diverse circumstances,
that "the eternity" is deniable?
The concerns over the future are logical. There are ad-
verse conditions which threaten Jewry numerically. There
is the irrefutable argument about the shearit Yisrael, the
remnant of Israel, that defies destruction.
Therefore, there is the faith, the confidence, that Jewry
survives under any and all conditions, no matter how
threatening. Reaching out, however, for the identification
that retains youth with in the ranks, that creates a strong
and non-defecting community, means that cures are
needed for many social and related ills. The road must be
paved for strictest adherence to the legacies that make
Israel a nation one with eternity. The challenges to leader-
ship, to the spiritual guides and the molders of loyalties are
greater now than ever before.

Galilee Crying Out for Jewish Settlers


The Jewish News Special
Israel Correspondent

TEL AVIV — There is
danger that Jews might be-
come a minority in the
Galilee in a few years. This
has become an urgent na-
tional problem.
The Jewish population in
the Western Galilee de-
creases from day to day.
Only 36 percent of the popu-
lation in this area are Jews.
- In 1976, the Jewish. popula-
tion increased by 1,600,
whereas the Arab popula-
tion grew by 5,200.
The chairman of the or-
ganization for developing
the Western Galilee, David
Korn, told us that the pre-
sent government does much
less than the former gov-
ernment to foster the de-
velopment of the Galilee.
The chairman of the Local
Councils, Jacob Jacob, said
that if urgent action is not
taken, Jews will become a
minority in the Galilee
,within five to six years.
The mayor of Shlomi,
David Hazan says the
population' of his town
has not increased. There
are no new immigrants
and 200 empty apart-
ments in Shlomi.
Hazan says jobs are
available, municipal taxes
are low, the landscape
beautiful and apartments
are cheap.
The chairman of the

moshavim movement in
Western Galilee, Shlomo
Michaeli, said that 400 new
apartments are needed on
40 moshavim. Many
youngsters, leaving Army
service, wish to build their
future in the moshavim, but
there is a shortage of hous-
In the meantime, Arabs
illegally take over land
which belongs to the gov-
ernment, clear it and begin
to farm.
Jewish development is
hindered by a shortage of
roads, telephones and
The Ministry for Com-
munication has 25,000 re-
quests for telephones in the
Galilee. There are eight
telephones per 100 people,
whereas in Haifa there are
The coordinator of the
government offices in the
Galilee, Chaim Hacham,
says the government sees
Galilee development as one
of its most important tasks.
Some 8,000 new telephones
will be installed this year
and apartments and cul-
tural institutions are plan-
More lots will be provided
for new settlers. Hacham
pointed out that many Has-
sidim are now interested in
settling in the Galilee. Has-
sidim from Wischnitz are
settling in Safed and Has-

sidim of Gur are settling in Israel and abroad for
Razor, near Rosh Pine. But Galilee settlement and in-
the Galilee needs at least vestment. There are jobs
open for 5,000 Jews in the
20,000 more Jews.
Galilee and many empty
The government has es- apartments for newcomers.
tablished a special commit- Minister for Absorption
tee of two ministers and two David Levy hopes to con-
vice ministers to work out a
vince a large number of new
detailed plan for develop- immigrants to settle in the
ment of the Galilee. This Galilee, with its housing
committee prepared a big and employment oppor-
information campaign for

Latins Will See 'Holocaust'

NEW YORK (JTA) — been sent to Jewish leaders
Burt Cohen, of World Vision in Buenos Aires who are as-
Enterprises, which has the sociated with the AJCom-
international broadcast mittee.
rights to the NBC
These leaders are
"Holocaust" series, said negotiating with officials
that the program has been of the National Television
purchased by Brazil, Col- Network in Argentina,
ombia, Venezuela, Puerto urging them to purchase
Rico, Guatemala and the film. The talks have
continued even though
Negotiations are being the Argentine govern-
conducted with the national merit closed the AJCom-
television networks of all mittee office in Buenos
Latin American countries, Aires last year.
he said. But negotiations in
Tanenbaum reported that
Argentina are presently at the "Holocaust" script has
a standstill.
been translated into
Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, Spanish and Portuguese
director of the interreligi- and has been made availa-
ous affairs department of ble to every Jewish corn-
the American Jewish munity in Latin America.
Committee, who served as a The AJComraittee is also
consultant to NBC in the involved in an ongoing ef-
production of the Holocaust fort to introduce the series
program, said that both the in many Third World coun-
video cassettes and study tries. Thailand, South
guides prepared in connec- Korea and Japan have ex-
tion with the program have pressed interest-

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