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November 15, 2002 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-15

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Behind The Numbers

oes anyone really care
exactly how many Jews
there are in the United
Judging by some of the initial cov-
erage of the release last month of the
National Jewish Population Survey
2000-01, you would think that the
dispute over whether there are 5.2
million (down from 5.5 million in
1990) or 6.7 million Jews — as
another survey asserts — was the
crucial point in this story.
Though the headline on the press
release from the United Jewish
Communities that sponsored the
survey claimed the numbers showed
a "fairly stable" population, the pic-
ture actually painted by the survey
was of an aging, shrinking popula-
Among those not accepting all of
this was demographer Gary Tobin
(no relation to this writer), who
claims that 1.5 million people who
should be counted as Jews were left
out of the NJPS numbers. This
includes people who currently
adhere to other religions; those who
don't list their religion as Jewish, but
claim to be ethnically or culturally


Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of

the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia. E-
mail: jtobin@jewishexponentcom

Jewish; and those who had been
raised as Jews or had at least one
Jewish parent.

Intermarriage Focus

But no matter which set of statistics
you choose to accept as being closer
to the truth, the real questions this
long-awaited survey and other studies
raise has little to do with just figures.
Rather, as the categories counted by
Gary Tobin and omitted by the NJPS
indicate, it is about how we define
ourselves. More to the point, it is also
about what kind of a community we
want to be in the future, no matter
how big or small our numbers.
More than a decade ago, when the
predecessor to this study was released
in 1990, many Jews were taken aback
by the high rate of intermarriage that
was reported. Whether the numbers
were completely accurate or not
(some analyses disputed the famous
52 percent intermarriage rate), the
1990 survey had the effect of con-
centrating communal minds on the
question of rising rates of assimila-
tion and the shrinking Jewish popu-
lation base.
Though much of the talk centered
on Jews marrying non-Jews, that was,
of course, not the problem itself. It
was merely an indicator of the fact
that not only were American Jews

From Jersey, 'The Protocols'

rab Voice, an Arabic-language
newspaper published weekly
since 1993 from Main Street
in Paterson, N.J., appears to
be just another one of America's many
ethnic publications.
Its news pages are replete with
items about Palestinian travails and
possible war with Iraq.
Its featured columnist is James
Zogby, president of the Arab
American Institute. Its publisher,
Walid Rabah, modestly describes him-
self as "an activist with the Palestinian
Writer's Guild in the United States."
Its pages are filled with ads hawking


Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle



X3 0

East Forum and author of 'Militant
Islam Reaches America." E-mail•

Arab-owned restaurants, travel agen-
cies, real estate offices, retail stores,
and doctors' offices.
It all appears achingly ordinary.
But it is not. For some weeks now,
the Arab Voice has been serializing an
Arabic-language version of the
Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its
pages, but not — revealingly — on
its Web site, wvvw.arabvoice.com
And the Protocols is no ordinary
It purports to be the secret tran-
scription of a Zionist Congress that
met in Switzerland in 1897, as taken
down by a czarist spy and first pub-
lished in St. Petersburg in 1903. At
the meeting, Jewish leaders allegedly
discussed their plans to establish
Jewish "sovereignty over all the
world." The Protocols includes their
boasts of being "invincible" and plans
to establish a "Super-Government

Over the course of the
accepted in society, but also
decade, both sides got a little
we were living lives that were
little different from those of
of what they wanted.
Day-school enrollment, for
our neighbors.
Given a Jewish communal
example, grew by leaps and
bounds, but a lack of com-
ethos focused more on exter-
munal support, high tuition
nal factors — resisting anti-
and a culture that looked
Semitism and supporting
askance at parochial educa-
Israel — and largely de-
JONATHAN tion ensured that that these
emphasizing faith and
schools would not become
Judaism as a way of life, it
the answer for the majority of
was little wonder that a
Commentary Jews.
majority of American Jews
On the other hand, Jewish
recognized no personal
federations and other organizations
imperative to marry within the faith.
poured a great deal of money into
Reaction to the 1990 numbers also
outreach events. Predictably, this
split the Jewish world on the ques-
effort was not enough to satisfy the
tion of "outreach" versus "inreach" as
outreach advocates who felt the mar-
the best response to this problem.
ginal success of such programs was
Some of us asserted that reaching out
the result of insufficient support, not
to the intermarried and the growing
the idea itself.
numbers of American Jews who were
This once red-hot argument has
unaffiliated was the correct response.
cooled down in recent years as the
Others claimed with more justice
Palestinian war on Israel got us
that investing most of our scarce
thinking less about catch phrases
Jewish communal resources on such
such as "Jewish continuity" and more
efforts would prove futile. They
about supporting the Jewish state.
insisted that "in-reach," or programs
devoted to helping reinforce the
identity of those already affiliated,
Everything Okay?
was the best chance for strengthening
While serious thought about the
our plight. This fight spilled over
meaning of the numbers might indi-
into many areas as "in-reach" advo-
cate a rekindling of a genuine debate,
cates pointed to Jewish day schools as
Jewish leaders would prefer that we
the way to keep our core population
avoid this. Both "outreach" and

somewhat reducing its appeal
Administration" that will
and reach (Ford and the
"subdue all the nations."
Times both retracted their
In fact, the Protocols is a
endorsements), it remained a
fabrication forged by the
powerful force. A 1926 study
czarist secret police, the
found that "no piece of mod-
Okhrana, in about 1898-99.
ern literature has even
This pseudo-document had
approximated the circulation
limited impact until 20 years
of the Protocols."
later, after World War I and
the Russian Revolution, when
a receptivity had developed
Sp ecial
`Warrant For Genocide'
for its message about a Jewish
Corn mentary
The historic importance of
conspiracy to dominate the
the Protocols lies in permitting
world. The Protocols quickly
anti-Semites to reach beyond their
became a best seller on appearing in
traditional circles and find a huge
German translation in January 1920.
international audience. Its vagueness
The former German royal family
— almost no names, dates, or issues
helped defray publication costs, and
are specified — was one key to this
deposed Kaiser Wilhelm II had por-
tions of the book read out loud to
The purportedly Jewish authorship
dinner guests. Translations into other
also helped to make the book more
languages quickly followed. Henry
convincing. Its facile embrace of con-
Ford endorsed the book, as did the
tradiction — Jews supposedly use all
London Times.
tools available, including capitalism
Although the book's forged nature
and communism, philo-Semitism and
was already established by 1921,

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