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December 13, 2002 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-12-13

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other estimates of the number of Jews
in the former Soviet Union run as
high al 3 million..
Just the same, Jewish demographer
Sergio Della Pergola - was troubled by
the institute's flgUres,There were 8,000
deaths of elderly Jews in Russia last
year and just 600 births, Della Pergola
said, reflecting "the end of a long
process. of assimilation and aging."



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Let us-lend a hand

The bleak demographic picture makes
it necessary to strategize and plan for
the future of the Jewish people, insti-
tute officials said.
Serving as the institute's co-chairman
is Dennis Ross, former Clinton admin-
istration envoy to the Middle East and
now director of the Washington
Institute for Near Easr Policy. Ross has
called for "mapping" and identifying
different populations to find what cre-
ates a sense of Jewish identity.
"How do you make being Jewish
attractive?" he asked. "We have to do a
survey and see what programs work
and which don't." Jewish day schools,
camps and Israel trips create bonds and
immerse children in an intense Jewish
experience, Ross said. But the cost of
day schooling is prohibitive, he noted.
Meridor said that the cost of day
schools is one of several issues that deter
Jews from remaining involved and active
in the community. A family with three
children in day schools could pay close to
$60,000 each year for tuition.
That can have two effects, Meridor
said: Jews who are less affiliated may
decide not to pay those kinds of
prices, and affiliated Jews who want to
send their children to day school may
decide to have fewer children.
Yet Ross noted that Jewish day
schools in America are experiencing a
growth spurt that is "nothing short of
phenomenal." Still, he added, "it has
to be more accessible to more people."
Meridor described aliyah as a major
Jewish growth tool, calling it a "vital
need, like water in the faucet." He called
for a more lenient attitude toward non-
Jewish immigrants, primarily Russians
who are eligible for aliyah because of a
Jewish parent, grandparent or spouse.
For Meridor, non-Jewish immigrants
who are willing to become Jews offer
one solution to the disturbing demo-
graphic numbers. By easing the con-
version process for them, Israel will

enable significant immigration from
Jewish families that include non-
Jewish members, Meridor said.
The Institute is funded Nvith $1 mil-
lion annually from the Jewish Agency
and Jewish philanthropists. Li

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