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Oct 7 2013

Dissecting That Poll About Secular & Assimilated American Jews

By at 1:48 pm

jordana horn and daughter doing shabbat


The Pew Research Center recently released the results of a major survey of American Jews and the results have a LOT of people talking. One-in-five Jews (22%) now describe themselves as having no religion and two-thirds of these “Jews of no religion” say they are not raising their kids Jewish or partially Jewish, according to the survey. Our contributing editors Jordana Horn and Adina Kay-Gross respond to the survey and one controversial article on on Slate entitled “American Jews are Secular, Intermarried, and Assimilated. Great News!

Jordana: Okay, Adina, let’s talk tachlis (bottom-line) about this Slate piece by author Gabriel Roth, in which he says the Pew report’s news about the degeneration of American Jews is A-OK by him. The report, in relevant part, states that “Increasing numbers of Jews are not religious, are married to non-Jews, and are raising their children outside the faith.”

Roth (whose fiction work I’ve read and loved) says he, personally, exemplifies the problem: he considers himself Jewish but not religious, he’s married to a non-Jew, and his kid is being raised as “partially Jewish,” whatever that may mean.

I guess my blood started boiling when I read, “And as an intermarried Jewish nonbeliever, I think it’s time we anxious Jews stopped worrying and learned to love our assimilated condition—even if it means that our children call themselves half-Jewish and our grandchildren don’t consider themselves Jews at all.” Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 22 2011

Thanksgiving and the American Jew

By at 10:22 am

macy's thanksgiving day paradeI’m an overthinker. This puts me in good company with women generally, as we tend to analyze and fill in the blanks of our days and interactions, much to our distraction and occasional chagrin. But my overthinking started one Thanksgiving when I was about 8 and had a particular epiphany about what it means to be Jewish in America. No, really.

When I was a little kid, I adored watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York on television.  Clearly, my parents somehow encouraged this obsession: I’m sure it came in pretty handy for keeping me out of the way during Thanksgiving meal preparations.

I’d study the parade lineup in the New York Times as though it was a performance intended for me and me alone. Then, I’d sit down way too close to the TV, crossing my corduroy- or velour-clad legs, to watch the whole thing, start to finish. I loved watching the happy lipsticked smiles of the baton twirlers from Kansas and Missouri. I’d watch the hyper-enthusiastic facial expressions of spandex-clad dancers and the determined stride of the balloon-anchor-walker-people, whatever they were called. I’d even enjoy the wintry-bright cheer emanating from Katie Couric and Willard Scott.

But most of all, I loved the feeling that I was doing something that everyone else in America was doing. Now, as an adult, I’m well aware that most people don’t sit parked in front of their televisions watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. But as a kid, I just assumed that this was the Thanksgiving equivalent of going to synagogue. This must be what people did in the morning, and in the afternoon, you ate, just like every Jewish holiday I’d ever celebrated.

I loved it that every family I knew – Jewish, non-Jewish, whatever – was all doing the same thing. I didn’t realize at the time that we were freaks because no one in the house cared about football. All I knew was that I had a day off from school to be thankful, to eat turkey and to be American. And it wasn’t like Sukkot where even the other Jewish kids didn’t know what holiday I was celebrating – this was one that everyone could understand. It felt good.

But when I was 8, I distinctly remember the end of the parade. With great to-do, the end of the parade – “the moment you’ve all been waiting for!” – came. And it was…Santa Claus. Read the rest of this entry →

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