Thursday, October 25, 2007

Jewish Continuity

After reading the comments to this post, and being encouraged by Ezzie to actually read the full text of Psycho Toddler's post about NCSY, I was troubled by the thought of public school students being written off as gone from the Jewish map.

Despite his apologies for thinking this way, in Psycho Toddler's post, he mentions having written off the girl "as another casualty of the American Jewish Holocaust," due to the fact that she attended public school. And that he was SO impressed, because she is now attending Stern College for Women.

I understand that a LOT of Jews are intermarrying, and that an intermarriage does lead the path for the loss of Jewish identity, especially when it comes to raising children and the difficulties that exist in a dual-religion home, especially given the dominant religion in this country not being Judaism. But I don't feel like the only path to secure a Jewish identity for future generations is a frum one.

Growing up, I was one of a very small handful of Jews in my public schools. Through my four years of high school, there was one other Jewish student one year. And yet, I had a very strong Jewish identity even then, and so do my brothers, who are not now frum.

I have quite a few non-frum friends who are very active in their Jewish communities and are quite affiliated, despite not being the targets of kiruv organizations. Several of these friends have chosen careers in the Jewish communal services field, dedicating their lives towards furthering the Jewish people. I have friends who don't go that far, but absolutely know that they are Jewish and will not even considering dating someone who isn't, because it is such a large part of their identity.

I think the key in Jewish continuity is not necessarily an observance level and adherence to halacha. I think it is being proud of your Jewish heritage, and making it an important part of your life. And that is something that can be done without necessarily keeping strictly kosher and not driving in a car on Shabbos. I think we need to be working on imbuing all Jews with pride for who they are and an appreciation for their Jewish heritage.